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Joseph Conrad, "Karain, a Memory":

His smallest acts were prepared and unexpected, his speeches grave, his sentences ominous like hints and complicated like arabesques. He was treated with a solemn respect accorded in the irreverent West only to the monarchs of the stage, and he accepted the profound homage with a sustained dignity seen nowhere else but behind the footlights and in the condensed falseness of some grossly tragic situation.

This is about a ruler in the East called Karain. He is given a lot of respect by his subordinates. Conrad compares such respect with some "monarchs of the stage."

I can't find an explanation of this phrase. Does he mean those ones best on the stage like singers, poets, movie stars (I get it that they've appeared later, it's just an example) or is there a saying like this meaning something else?

  • Hello, P. Have you found the phrase in a Google search? Does it seem to be widely used? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 26 at 13:56
  • @EdwinAshworth Hello, Edwin, it finds 12 results, some of them are Conrad's books. – P. Vowk Jul 26 at 13:59
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    I'd say it's far from being a fixed expression, then. Conrad's writing is high-flown. Standard nowadays would be stars of stage and screen or probably just film stars. I suppose 'famous actors and actresses' would have been necessary around the turn of the century. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 26 at 14:11
  • What are…, or what does “monarchs…” mean. – David Jul 26 at 19:00
  • Monarchs means royalty. Metaphorical acting royalty in this case. – DJClayworth Jul 27 at 1:33
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The point of the sentence is that the 'irreverent West' doesn't respect great authors, or high religious figures, or great scientists, or real royalty, but only acting celebrities. So the respect that Karain gets can only be compared to that.

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