What is common humanity as Dickens uses it?

“You will excuse me,” said the gentleman contemptuously, “if I am too much in advance of common humanity to trouble myself at all about it. I have passed the night — as indeed I pass the whole of my time now — in spiritual intercourse.”

  • Hamed, welcome to ELU. All new users should have read about How to Ask before asking their first question. – Talia Ford Oct 21 '13 at 13:12

The word common has many meanings, among them

  1. belonging to or shared by two or more people ⇒ common property
  2. belonging to or shared by members of one or more nations or communities; public ⇒ a common culture
  3. of ordinary standard; average ⇒ common decency
  4. prevailing; widespread ⇒ common opinion
  5. widely known or frequently encountered; ordinary ⇒ a common brand of soap
  6. widely known and notorious ⇒ a common nuisance
  7. (derogatory) considered by the speaker to be low-class, vulgar, or coarse ⇒ a common accent
  8. (prenominal) having no special distinction, rank, or status ⇒ the common man

While the phrase as used in the quote appears to suggest meaning 8 (common humanity analogous to the phrase common man), the context indicates that it is actually being used contemptuously, as in meaning 7.

The speaker holds himself in advance of common humanity, that is superior to, or more evolved, having achieved a spiritual plane.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.