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When he grew tall enough to peep through the keyhole of the great lock of the main door, he had divers times set down his father’s dinner, or supper, to get on as it might on the outer side thereof, while he stood taking cold in one eye by dint of peeping at her through that airy perspective.

This is a passage from Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit Chapter 18. What does the whole passage mean? What does "to get on as it might" mean?

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  • I take it to mean that he could see the outside world through the lock of the main door, and habitually peeked through it when he was bringing his father his dinner/supper.
    – user888379
    May 12 at 15:25
  • to set something down means to put it down on a surface. Before he could look through the keyhole, he had to set down the dinner (plate) because he couldn't look through the keyhole and hold the plate in one hand at the same time.
    – Lambie
    May 12 at 15:41
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    @anjan: Dickens was writing almost 200 years ago and his English is very odd, even for the time. Don't expect to understand all the structures -- people talked different then, and Dickens' characters' speech stood out as odd even in the 1800s. Most of it is just archaic and not useful to learn, unless you want to talk like Dorrit. May 12 at 15:45
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    "To get on as it might" refers to what happens to the plate after he put it down on his side (the outer side) of the door. Presumably, it would have gotten cold. to get on: to happen to something. But today, to get on is only used with people, not things. How are you getting on? Reading Dickens is the best thing one can do. Had I not started reading him when I was around 12 (The Tale of Two Cities), I might not have become interested in things of the mind. Cheers.
    – Lambie
    May 12 at 15:59
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    When he grew tall enough to peep through the keyhole of the door, many times he would set down his father’s dinner outside the door (instead of taking it in) while he peeped through the keyhole. Divers = diverse. Dinner set down outside the room will do what it will do (get on as it might): Get cold? Get eaten by rats? Dinner is on its own here. May 13 at 2:16

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