Saw this in his book a few days, would someone help me find clarity in its meaning?

"brass can do better than the gold what has stood the fire"

Here is the full context:

The man ran upstairs. Nancy remained, pale and almost breathless, listening with quivering lip to the very audible expressions of scorn, of which the chaste housemaids were very prolific; and of which they became still more so, when the man returned, and said the young woman was to walk upstairs.

‘It’s no good being proper in this world,’ said the first housemaid.

‘Brass can do better than the gold what has stood the fire,’ said the second.

  • 1
    it's best to include much more of the text around both sides of the quote.
    – Fattie
    May 31, 2015 at 4:19
  • Page 300 of which edition?
    – J.R.
    May 31, 2015 at 9:34

1 Answer 1


Brass refers to Nancy's rough 'brassy' insistence. Gold refers to the self-opinion of the 'chaste housemaids'. Fire refers to the process of refining gold, which removes impurities.

So they are saying that It's unfair how being crude (like her) sometimes works better than being refined (like us).


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