In Diana of the Crossways, Lady Dunstane does not like her new house: she thinks it is too ugly. Her friend Diana, however, says that many people would be happy to have a house like that. My question is: what is meant here by indemnities?

Her cat's love of the familiar inside corners was never able to embrace the outer walls. Her sensitiveness, too, was racked by the presentation of so pitiably ugly a figure to the landscape. She likened it to a coarse-featured country wench, whose cleaning and decorating of her countenance makes complexion grin and ruggedness yawn. Dirty, dilapidated, hung with weeds and parasites, it would have been more tolerable. She tried the effect of various creepers, and they were as a staring paint. What it was like then, she had no heart to say.

One may, however, fall on a pleasureable resignation in accepting great indemnities, as Diana bade her believe, when the first disgust began to ebb. "A good hundred over there would think it a Paradise for an asylum: she signified London."

I undestand the literal meaning of indemnities, but do not understand what does it signify here: an indemnity is a compensation, but who pays it in this context? Or maybe she refers to the landscape of the estate which, unlike the house, both of them find beautiful?

  • Good question... Could be sloppiness or poor choice of words on the author's part... – GoldenGremlin Oct 16 '16 at 0:20
  • Or does Diana simply mean that theoretically Lady Dunstane can give the house up, the house itself being a compensation? (As later on they talk about politics) – Elizaveta Levina Oct 16 '16 at 0:21
  • 1
    I think the likely interpretation is that Lady Dunstane is resigning herself to live in the house. Her disgust for it is fading and she is resignedly accepting the cost (indemnities) of living there. The metaphorical cost is putting up with the things she doesn't like. – GoldenGremlin Oct 16 '16 at 0:23
  • @Silenus An accepted indemnity is not a cost, but a benefit. It can mean compensation, but it can also mean a surety against loss or an exemption from legal responsibility. Neither sense helps me understand the sentence given the limited context that I read. – deadrat Oct 16 '16 at 1:16
  • 1
    I was using it as a cost in this sense "a sum of money paid as compensation, especially a sum exacted by a victor in war as one condition of peace" (Oxford). Lady Dunstane might be "accepting", that is, willing, to pay the indemnities. But I don't know. It's a tough (or poorly worded) cookie. – GoldenGremlin Oct 16 '16 at 2:03

The key quote might be annotated as:

One (a person such as the Lady Dunstane) may, however, fall on a pleasureable resignation (enjoy the feeling of giving in and accepting) great indemnities (the way one is paid back or recompensed for accepting the thing they rejected), as Diana bade her believe....

To perhaps over-unpack, Diana is understood to have told Lady Dunstane something like this:

"Just give in and accept this place that you dislike. It is the envy of many. Once you have resigned yourself to accept it, your resignation will be pleasureable if you can accept enjoyment of the good parts of your estate as payment for tolerating the bad parts."

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.