be reduced to <seek / seeking> a livelihood

park sang joon

Senior Member
The narrator recalls his adolescence.
He is a writer for several papers.
His old friend Mr. Micawber, who was landlord of the narrator as child, went bankrupt twice, works as the clerk for a local lawyer Uriah Heep.
He met Mr. Micawber in the front of King's bench prison where Mr. Micawber was incarcerate as a debtor, took him to his great aunt's house.

'My employer, ma'am - Mr. Heep - once did me the favour to observe to me, that if I were not in the receipt of the stipendiary emoluments appertaining to my engagement with him, I should probably be a mountebank about the country, swallowing a sword-blade, and eating the devouring element. For anything that I can perceive to the contrary, it is still probable that my children may be reduced to seek a livelihood by personal contortion, while Mrs. Micawber abets their unnatural feats by playing the barrel-organ.'
[David Copperfield by Charles Dickens]
I'd like to know why it is "be reduced to seek a livelihood," not "be reduced to seeking a livelihood."
Thank you in advance for your help.
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I see no reason why he chose "seek" instead of "seeking". My guess is that grammar rules were looser back then and "reduced to seek" was as acceptable as "reduced to seeking", with the same meaning. You've been reading Dickens' book for a long time now. Have you noticed other verb issues that were similar?

    There is another, less likely option: it could be a BE vs AE difference. Dickens wrote BE.

    But the meaning is clear. His children may be reduced (monetarily) to working as street performers (contortionists), with mom providing the music. So sad...:)
    < Previous | Next >