4

While reading Villette, a 19th-century novel by Charlotte Brontë, I came across the word guard used in a different way than I had known hitherto:

I was up the next morning an hour before daybreak, and finished my guard, kneeling on the dormitory floor...

From the above sentence I infer that the word carries a religious connotation—a morning prayer, a sermon or perhaps a rite.

Finding it odd, I consulted numerous online dictionaries, amongst which are Collins and findwords, but alas the search yielded no fitting result, so I resort to enlist your help.

The closest definition was 'posture of readiness or defence'; however, it doesn't coincide with the overall meaning of the sentence as I, perhaps wrongly, understand it.

The woman speaking is a Protestant, a detail that may or may not prove to be useful.

5
  • The closest definition is possibly Collins n 15. a. the act or duty of protecting, restraining, or supervising >> So. guard duty, or a spell of guard duty; perhaps used for a vigil. May 27, 2015 at 16:35
  • 4
    It is the "bright little chainlet of silk and gold" which she is embroidering in the previous chapter, which in fact gives its name to the title of the previous chapter: "He asked at what I was working; and I said I was making a watchguard." May 27, 2015 at 16:39
  • 1
    If you read on to the next paragraph, you will see that "guard" is used again: "I duly detached and re-attached it, then coiled compactly the completed guard". It seems to be some form of jewelry the narrator is crafting. It is in the form of a chain, made with silk and beads, and she completes it by attaching the clasp from her own necklace. May 27, 2015 at 16:39
  • 1
    Oh, your are all right, she is indeed talking about the watchguard.Thanks a lot
    – Bob
    May 27, 2015 at 16:52
  • @YoavKallus: Impressive. Why don't you post it as an answer. You'd gain rep and we'd this post wont show in the unanswered queue.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 27, 2015 at 20:18

2 Answers 2

5

If you read on to the next paragraph, you will see that "guard" is used again: "I duly detached and re-attached it, then coiled compactly the completed guard". It seems to be some form of jewelry the narrator is crafting. It is in the form of a chain, made with silk and beads, and she completes it by attaching the clasp from her own necklace.

5

Victorian guard chain with clasp

An example of a Victorian ladies' guard chain, worn around the neck. These were long chains, with a clasp for attaching pocket watches, lockets, spectacles and muffs.

2
  • A simple answer to a simple question. I must be on the wrong site.
    – Fattie
    May 28, 2015 at 4:04
  • Hi @Bob do you know how to tick the correct answer?
    – Fattie
    May 28, 2015 at 4:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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