a clean-shaven face, best described, perhaps, as of bureaucratic type

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Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "a clean-shaven face, best described, perhaps, as of bureaucratic type" means in the following sentences:

He was a young man of five-and-twenty, well built, though a trifle meagre, and of pale complexion. He had hair that was very nearly black, and a clean-shaven face, best described, perhaps, as of bureaucratic type. The clothes he wore were of expensive material, but had seen a good deal of service. His stand-up collar curled over at the corners, and his necktie was lilac-sprigged.

- George Gissing, New Grub Street, Chapter 1

The protagonist of the novel, Jasper Milvain, is being described.

Here, I could not be sure as to what "perhaps" modifies.
Does it mean that his face was a bureaucratic type when perhaps best described?
Or that his face, when best described, was perhaps a bureaucratic type?
In short, I am not sure where the author has put the hesitation into: the degree of euphemism in description, or the word bureaucratic itself?

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    He could have written: ... and [he had] a clean-shaven face which was perhaps best described as of the bureaucratic type.

    I suspect this is one of Gissing's little jokes: he meant that he looked like a clerk. Gissing was very fond of types: a clerk looked like XXX; a shopgirl looked like YYY; a shopgirl who read library books looked like ZZZ; etc. etc. etc.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear ewie,

    Thank you very much for the clear explanation.
    Then "perhaps" modifies the "best described" part, implying that the author was not sure whether to describe him as a bureaucratic type was the best way to describe him.

    I didn't know that Gissing liked to liken characters to various types; this is my first Gissing book.
    Very interesting to know his little joke. :)
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    And, may I ask one more question about the "best described" part?

    By "best" described, does it mean that it is the most fitting description about him?
    Or that it is the most favourable word to describe him?
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Actually, I first thought that the latter was the case, but, after learning that "bureaucratic" has a negative connotation, I became very confused...:confused:
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    and a clean-shaven face, best described, perhaps, as of bureaucratic type.
    =
    and a clean-shaven face, which, in my opinion at least, can most accurately be described as being of the bureaucratic type.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear lingobingo,

    Thank you very much for the clear explanation.
    Then "best" here means "accurately," "fittingly" than "favourably."
    I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     
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