a long time ago, by now


Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
I received a letter from him about it a long time ago, by now, a letter with which I hastened not to comply and which leaves no doubt about his feelings, at least his feelings of love, for his wife.
(The Way by Swann's; M. Proust)

Would you be so kind as to tell me what additional meaning 'by now' conveys here?

  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It looks to me like a non-standard alternative to the idiomatic "it's a long time ago now", in which "now" has various possible vague senses around the length of the intervening period, the long time since I last considered the issue, ...


    At the link you provided there's no comma before "by now", so it has the same meaning as here:

    3. up to the present
    used for saying how long it is since something happened or started
    It’s three years now since I moved south from Scotland.
    The farm workers have been there for about two weeks now.

    cross-posted with Teddy


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    It seems to clarify the perspective for "a long time ago". What it suggests to me is that the letter was received a long time ago by the time Proust wrote this, but not all that long ago relative to whatever else he is writing about.


    Senior Member
    American English
    Sometimes it helps to compare translations of something that was not originally written in English. The 1922 Moncrieff translation puts it this way:

    “He wrote me a letter about it, ages ago, to which I took care to pay no attention, but it left no doubt as to his feelings, let alone his love for his wife."

    I wonder whether there was an effort in one version or the other to keep closer to a literal translation of the French.