0

This may be fancy, though I think the memory of most of us can go farther back into such times than many of us suppose; just as I believe the power of observation in numbers of very young children to be quite wonderful for its closeness and accuracy. Indeed, I think that most grown men who are remarkable in this respect, may with greater propriety be said not to have lost the faculty, than to have acquired it; the rather, as I generally observe such men to retain a certain freshness, and gentleness, and capacity of being pleased, which are also an inheritance they have preserved from their childhood. (Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, CHAPTER 2. I OBSERVE)

Does than in this excerpt mean but = be said not to have lost the faculty, but to have acquired it?

Does the rather in this fragment mean the latter = the latter (e.g. the faculty having been acquired), as I generally observe...?

I should finally say that I actually don't know what the rather means. I haven't been able to find it in any of the free online English dictionaries that I've looked it up in. I'm very sure the rather is included in OED, but this is a lexicographic work that is without my reach.

  • 1
    Archaic syntax. Not surprising from something that old. – John Lawler Jan 26 '14 at 17:49
  • 1
    Depends on whether the reader wants to stop and smell the syntax. Not everyone enjoys distraction from the story. – John Lawler Jan 26 '14 at 18:04
  • ... the roar of the crowd is considerably louder than the syntax. – John Lawler Jan 26 '14 at 18:08
2

Indeed, I think that most grown men who are remarkable in this respect, may more accurately be said not to have lost the faculty, rather than to have acquired it. This seems all the more likely to me, as I generally observe that such men retain a certain freshness, and gentleness, and capacity to be pleased: other characteristics they have possessed from childhood.

And I'd stop using 'without' for 'beyond' or 'outside' if you want to sound normal.

  • 2
    'All the more so' in general. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 26 '14 at 17:58
  • 1
    @Patrick: You might also wish to note that although it makes no real difference to the overall sense of the passage, replacing than with but would actually change the structure. That's because than links back to with greater propriety than that, whereas but links back to not to have lost, but to have acquired. – FumbleFingers Jan 26 '14 at 23:05

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.