an earnestly felt, yet strictly restrained zeal breathed soon in the distinct accents

Irelia20150604

Senior Member
Chinese
The quotation comes from Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre (Chap. 30) | Genius

Quotation: It began calm—and indeed, as far as delivery and pitch of voice went, it was calm to the end: an earnestly felt, yet strictly restrained zeal breathed soon in the distinct accents, and prompted the nervous language. This grew to force—compressed, condensed, controlled. The heart was thrilled, the mind astonished, by the power of the preacher: neither were softened.

Context: Jane had just heard St. John's sermon.
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Hi everyone! I don't quite understand the bold part. I try to interpret it as below. Is it correct?

to breathe => 3 b : to become perceptible : be expressed <a personality that breathes and that distinguishes his work ― Bennett Schiff> [M-W dictionary]
to prompt => 3 : to serve as the inciting cause of <evidence prompting an investigation>
nervous => 3. a.3.a Of writings, arguments, etc.: Vigorous, powerful, forcible; free from weakness and diffuseness. [OED]

the sentence => soon in the distinct accents was a zeal expressed that was strictly restrained, though the audience perceive it as earnest. The zeal prompted the powerful language.

I found I could not fully understand "earnestly felt", so I used many words to interpret it.
 
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  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I think the bold part means this:

    Both the nervous language and the distinct accents were caused by zeal - a controlled zeal, but an earnestly felt zeal.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I'm not sure what is puzzling you. "Zeal" is an emotion. We "feel" emotions, and "felt" is the past participle of "feel". And "earnestly" is an intensifier.

    So it is a zeal that is strongly felt (by this person at this moment). If I've missed the part that puzzles you, ask another question.
     
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