It seems that in this context "by-and-by" doesn't mean "before long" or something of the kind. It's an extract from Meredith's Diana of the Crossways. I'd be grateful if you could explain what it means; my only guess is that it is something like "your health" because the characters are about to drink champagne. Thanks in advance!

'I'll never live to hear a lady insulted.'

'You don't mean to say you're the donkey to provoke a duel!' Mr. Redworth burst out gruffly, through turkey and stuffing.

'And an Irish lady, the young Beauty of Erin!' Mr. Sullivan Smith was flowing on. He became frigid, he politely bowed: 'Two, sir, if you haven't the grace to withdraw the offensive term before it cools and can't be obliterated.'

'Fiddle! and go to the deuce!' Mr. Redworth cried.

'Would a soft slap o' the cheek persuade you, sir?'

'Try it outside, and don't bother me with nonsense of that sort at my supper. If I'm struck, I strike back. I keep my pistols for bandits and law-breakers. Here,' said Mr. Redworth, better inspired as to the way of treating an ultra of the isle; 'touch glasses: you're a gentleman, and won't disturb good company. By-and-by.'

The pleasing prospect of by-and-by renewed in Mr. Sullivan Smith his composure. They touched the foaming glasses: upon which, in a friendly manner, Mr. Sullivan Smith proposed that they should go outside as soon as Mr. Redworth had finished supper-quite finished supper: for the reason that the term 'donkey' affixed to him was like a minster cap of schooldays, ringing bells on his topknot, and also that it stuck in his gizzard.

  • I strongly suspect it does mean before long. The characters have agreed to duel by and by: as soon as they finish the meal.
    – MetaEd
    Aug 25, 2016 at 23:19
  • The first quoted use is not consistent with the current idiomatic meaning. It almost sounds like a toast. The second use is slightly more consistent with current meaning, but still not totally idiomatic.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 25, 2016 at 0:33

1 Answer 1


I think it means "eventually" in the first instance, and is used as a noun in the second:

By and by

  • adverb - presently or eventually n
  • noun - US and Canadian a future time or occasion Collins English Dictionary –

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