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I am struggling to understand the following sentence in the third paragraph in Chapter 1 of The Moon and Sixpence:

And when such as had come in contact with Strickland in the past, writers who had known him in London, painters who had met him in the cafes of Montmartre, discovered to their amazement that where they had seen but an unsuccessful artist, like another, authentic genius had rubbed shoulders with them there began to appear in the magazines of France and America a succession of articles, the reminiscences of one, the appreciation of another, which added to Strickland's notoriety, and fed without satisfying the curiosity of the public.

You can find this sentence here.

I began to feel confused when seeing this part:

..., authentic genius had rubbed shoulders with them there began to appear in the magazines...

Initially, it looks to me wrong that "had rubbed" and "began" appear in the same sentence because they are both verbs that are used as predicates.

However, after looking closer, it then looks like the real subject of this part of the whole sentence is the very long "where": where they had seen but an unsuccessful artist, like another, authentic genius had rubbed shoulders with them there.

Is my break-down of this part correct?

But even if I'm correct above, I'm still confused why there are two "had done" parts: had seen and had rubbed. I think there must be two parallel subjects. The first subject seems to be "they" which refers to all those famous writers or painters; the second one seems to be "authentic genius". Am I right?? But why is there not an "and" to connect them?

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    BTW, this novel is loosely based on the life of Paul Gauguin, an artist who was "unappreciated until after his death" (Wikipedia) to put it lightly. – KannE Oct 27 '19 at 11:18
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    The there is associated with began, and not with rubbed shoulders with them. – Peter Shor Oct 27 '19 at 11:31
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I don't think your break-down of the sentence is correct. I understand the sentence in the following way:

  • When people who knew Strickland in the past realized he was a major artist, they gave interviews about him to journalists and articles bagan to appear in the press.

The sentence can be reduced to something like this:

  • And when such as had come in contact with Strickland in the past (...) discovered (...) that (...) authentic genius had rubbed shoulders with them there began to appear in the magazines of France and America a succession of articles (...).

A comma between them and there would make the sentence clearer.

There is not the adverb you find in I'll see you there, pronounced /ðɛə/ but the existential there you find in there is, there are..., pronounced /ðə/. It's the formal grammatical subject of began:

  • there began to appear (...) a succession of articles...

In other words:

  • a succession of articles began to appear
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    I find the author's use of commas confusing. Presumably he means 'an unsuccessful artist like any other'. I feel there ought to be a comma before 'there began to appear...' – Kate Bunting Oct 27 '19 at 8:44
  • @KateBunting "like another" is indeed a bit strange. I wonder if it's not a gallicism (comme un autre). WSM's first language was French after all. Punctuation is all over the place. It reads like one of those terrible sentences Proust had a knack for. – grandtout Oct 27 '19 at 9:08
  • @Kate Bunting Excellent spot. But the sentence is still woeful. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 27 '19 at 16:28
  • Thanks for the explanation! I learned "there be" and "there do" forms but didn't think of them when seeing this sentence. I agree that a comma between "them" and "there" would make it more clear! – yaobin Oct 28 '19 at 1:26
  • @EdwinAshworth Being an English learner, such sentences are particularly challenging for me. I'm not sure if the earlier English writers were all like this. Another example is John Locke. I haven't read his books but saw the excerpts somewhere else, and found the sentences are usually split by commas in a confusing way to me that prevents me from reading and understanding fluently. Sometime later I may try Charles Dickens, and see what would happen. XD – yaobin Oct 28 '19 at 1:33
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Adding to petitrien's explanation: there is here used as the subject of the verb appear, a copular verb a special kind of verb as be.

There began to be rumours. (There were more and more rumours.)

There began to appear (...) a succession of articles.

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  • Thanks for the additional information! – yaobin Oct 28 '19 at 1:27
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I would analyse the text like this:

"And when such as had come in contact with Strickland in the past, writers who had known him in London, painters who had met him in the cafes of Montmartre, discovered to their amazement that …"

And when people [writers in London, painters in Paris (Montmartre)] that had known Strickland in the past discovered or realised that…

"where they had seen but an unsuccessful artist, like another, authentic genius had rubbed shoulders with them there"

when they had seen him / his work [Strickland], they had been wrong to dismiss him / his work as rubbish or unimportant, he was in fact a genius – rather than just another unsuccessful, pretentious artist, like all of the other unsuccessful pretentious artists they had met in London or Paris…

"began to appear in the magazines of France and America a succession of articles,..."

And, following this realisation, the very people that had doubted Strickland’s genius began to write a number of complementary magazine articles in both France and America…

"the reminiscences of one, the appreciation of another, which added to Strickland's notoriety, and fed without satisfying the curiosity of the public."

to describe their individual reminiscences of seeing or meeting Strickland, or seeing his work. This [belated] approbation then helped to build Strickland’s notoriety [notoriety: the state of being famous or well known for some bad quality or deed – probably the latter in this case...]. However, these magazine articles only ‘fed’ or ‘fanned the flames’ of the public’s curiosity and appreciation of Strickland, making them want to know more and more and more – the articles were good publicity and Brand or image building for Strickland.

I think the original writing is very 'flowery' if not a bit pretentious. The use of "had done..." "had seen..." is employed purely for style rather than grammatical reasons, rather than to convey information in a clear or concise way. For me, it conjures-up an image of the writer, sitting in a dimly lit, smoke-filled room, in front of a roaring log fire, deep in thoughtful conversation with the reader, discussing Strickland after enjoying a particularly good meal... But then that might just be me!

NB: You may use or reproduce this analysis in any educational [assignment] or commercial work only if it is correctly attributed to this website.

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  • Thanks for the comment! I share the image as you do! – yaobin Oct 28 '19 at 1:22

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