I have while reading Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' stumbled upon a sentence which has ever since been puzzling my mind and I have not been able to penetrate the grammar used. Here goes the sentence:

"I do believe the dear soul thought I might be jealous, lest my poor dear should have fallen in love with any other girl."

What exactly puzzles me are the following grammar structures: "lest" and "should have fallen". What meaning do they convey here? How do I understand them? I feel it's not commonly used grammar, and any help is very much appreciated. I have made bold all the structures I'm not quite sure of. I only know of the "should have + past participle" construction in a sense of regret, like "I should have studied harder." (while in fact I did not, hence the lamentation." But here the construction seems to be following some other frame of application.

  • Do understand that "lest" is archaic. The quote you give appears to be idiomatic, given that. – Hot Licks Apr 14 '19 at 11:42
  • I think I do understand this, but what word could "lest" be substituted to without losing its meaning in the context I'm not exactly sure of. – Fallen Empire Apr 14 '19 at 11:45
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    "lest" can often, including here, be replaced by "for fear that". We did not talk, lest we wake the baby. – Michael Harvey Apr 14 '19 at 11:49
  • Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. – Hot Licks Apr 14 '19 at 11:53
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    The conjunction lest is not archaic, but not often used in unrehearsed speech. – KarlG Apr 14 '19 at 12:02

In case

"In case" is a common modern usage to convey this sense. Commonly this is coupled with "might"...

I do believe the dear soul thought I might be jealous, in case my poor dear might have fallen in love with any other girl.

... or simply:

I do believe the dear soul thought I might be jealous, in case my poor dear had fallen in love with any other girl.

Another example is:

We did not open the suitcase, in case the moths might fly out.


We did not open the suitcase, in case the moths flew out.


This word is declining in use, according to Google's analysis of books: enter image description here

Strictly speaking it should be combined with the subjunctive mood:

We did not eat anything from the unsavoury roadside stall, lest we should fall ill.

However, there is a well known use of "lest" in a simple form of words, used in memorials in remembrance of soldiers who lost their lives in a war:

"Lest we forget"

This comes from a Rudyard Kipling poem, Recessional, which begins:

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
  • 1
    "...lest my poor dear should have fallen..." follows exactly the syntax of classical Latin, in which Bram Stoker, and many of his readers, would have been educated. Those words word therefore not strike them as antiquated because they would have been familiar with that form of expression since early schooldays. – JeremyC Apr 14 '19 at 21:25

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