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On page 59-60

She threw the cards down on the table when she had won them all, as if she despised them for having been won of me.

My guess for the phrase is "as if she despised them for having lost to me".

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  • 12
    I would read it as "she despised them for having been won from me".
    – user888379
    Feb 15 at 13:50
  • 1
    Modern English would use "won from/off me" but I suppose this was a 19th century usage.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 15 at 14:52
  • Note an ambiguity in "lost to me" too
    – Henry
    Feb 15 at 21:33

3 Answers 3

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The usage was more popular over a hundred years ago than it is now.

Google Ngram shows the decline by a factor of ten from a peak in the early 1800s to the present day.

For example:

Laws of the State of Indiana

it shall be sufficient for the plaintiff to allege, that the defendant is indebted to the plaintiff, or has received for the plaintiff's use, the money so lost and paid, or converted the goods won of the plaintiff, to the defendant's use

Some justification may be found in contemporary English:

Cambridge

of: used in expressions showing loss:

They were robbed of all their savings.
I feel I've been deprived of your company.

Hence "the cards were won of me" implies that I lost the cards.

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  • Those Chambers examples seem very different to me from the Dickens and Indiana-law examples, because in the Chambers examples the object of of denotes the thing lost, and in the others it denotes the person who lost them. (If the constructions were analogous, Chambers would have "All their savings were robbed of them" and "I feel your company has been deprived of me"; or alternatively, Dickens would have "[...] as if she despised them for my having been won of them" and that Indiana law would have "[...] the goods of which the plaintiff was won".)
    – ruakh
    Feb 16 at 2:03
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"Won of" in Dickens' day means "won from".

So "she" wins all the cards from the speaker (presumably this is a game in which you win by taking all the cards for yourself) and then throws them away, as if she "despised them" for where they had come from, i.e. that they had been won from the speaker.

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    Yes, the card game they were playing was Beggar my neighbour.
    – Justin
    Feb 15 at 15:05
  • In Dutch they are actually the same word. "of" and "from" both translate to "van". Probably in some other languages too.
    – Ivo
    Feb 16 at 9:11
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It is the same form as "What would you have of me?"

"From" states direction and implies origin. "Of" states origin and implies direction. I suppose you could say that there has been an idiomatic transition from polar to cartesian framing.

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