befiddled

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Veraz

Senior Member
Spain Spanish
Hi, I'm reading Sterne's "The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman". And I would like to know what exactly is he referring to in this passage when he writes "be-fiddled".

"But the desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases
ever with the acquisition of it. The more my uncle Toby pored
over his map, the more he took a liking to it;—by the same
process and electrical assimulation, as I told you, thro’ which
I ween the souls of connoisseurs themselves, by long friction
and incumbition, have the happiness, at length, to get all
be-virtu’d,—be-pictur’d,—be-butterflied, and be-fiddled."

Does he mean "captured by the sound of a fiddle (violin)" or "full of" or "surrounded by fiddles (traps)"?

Thank you!

Torcuato
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I think it refers to how different sort of connoisseurs become obsessed and enraptured by the objects that they treasure, study, and even worship or fetishize, whether it be virtues, pictures, butterflies, or violins.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm sorry, it means nothing to me - except, possibly, bemused.

    EDIT: The more I look at this, the more I think Bibbles is right.
     
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    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    There is some serious, that is to say, frivolous wordplay here. I take it that the author is
    presenting the speaker as either a joker, playing with words, or as someone not quite so literate as he would like to be, making all sorts of mistakes with the language. My guess is that it is the former.

    be-virtued~ made virtuous
    be-fiddled? possibly a variation on befuddled, or maybe a pun I don't get.

    I don't know what it means, but the humorous intent seems clear.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I think bibliolept is right: These men become totally preoccupied with virtue, paintings and butterflies to the exclusion of everything else. Be-virtued, be-pictured and be-butterflied are comical plays the use of the prefix be- to make verbs out of nouns.

    I take "be-fiddled" to be something else ~ a tag stuck on to describe their resultant condition. Surely, it is meant to suggest "befuddle", but it has its own meaning as well. The OED provides what I take to be the relevant definition:
    fiddle (verb trans. and intr.) To cheat, swindle; to ‘wangle’, intrigue.
    Here the prefix is an intensive, as it is in bemuse. (Dictionary.com)
    These men, because of their preoccupations are befiddled ~ thoroughly taken advantage of by anyone who wants to sell them anything related to their preoccupation.

    The passage goes on: "The more my Uncle Toby drank of this sweet fountain of science, the greater was the heat and impatience of this thirst ...." and then lists the maps, plans and books he buys to satisfy his interest; clearly he is a ready victim for opportunistic dealers in books and maps, and anything else related to his hobby.

    Source:
    The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy: Gentleman - Google Books Result by Laurence Sterne - 1894
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I think bibliolept is right: These men become totally preoccupied with virtue, paintings and butterflies to the exclusion of everything else. Be-virtued, be-pictured and be-butterflied are comical plays the use of the prefix be- to make verbs out of nouns.

    I take "be-fiddled" to be something else ~ a tag stuck on to describe their resultant condition. Surely, it is meant to suggest "befuddle", but it has its own meaning as well. The OED provides what I take to be the relevant definition:
    fiddle (verb trans. and intr.) To cheat, swindle; to ‘wangle’, intrigue.
    Here the prefix is an intensive, as it is in bemuse. (Dictionary.com)
    These men, because of their preoccupations are befiddled ~ thoroughly taken advantage of by anyone who wants to sell them anything related to their preoccupation.

    The passage goes on: "The more my Uncle Toby drank of this sweet fountain of science, the greater was the heat and impatience of this thirst ...." and then lists the maps, plans and books he buys to satisfy his interest; clearly he is a ready victim for opportunistic dealers in books and maps, and anything else related to his hobby.

    Source:
    The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy: Gentleman - Google Books Result by Laurence Sterne - 1894
    The author could, however, be making a pun on another sense of fiddle.

    From The Century Dictionary:

    I. intrans....5. To be busy with trifles; trifle; do something requiring considerable pains and patience without any adequate result.
    Earlier in the book, in Chapter 1.VII., he includes actual fiddles among "Hobby-Horses":

    have not the wisest of men in all ages, not excepting Solomon himself,--have they not had their Hobby-Horses;--their running horses,--their coins and their cockle-shells, their drums and their trumpets, their fiddles, their pallets,--their maggots and their butterflies?
    Fiddles and fiddlers are mentioned elsewhere in the book, and are not, it seems to me, considered by the author to merit great respect (they merit tolerance, instead, it seems).
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The author could, however, be making a pun on another sense of fiddle.

    [....]

    Earlier in the book, in Chapter 1.VII., he includes actual fiddles among "Hobby-Horses":

    [....]

    Fiddles and fiddlers are mentioned elsewhere in the book, and are not, it seems to me, considered by the author to merit great respect (they merit tolerance, instead, it seems).
    You are no doubt right.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    And of course Vertu/Virtu refers to collectables/objets d'art.
    Interesting, Redshade: I didn't know that!

    OED definition of virtu, vertu:
    1. a. A love of, or taste for, works of art or curios; a knowledge of, or interest in, the fine arts; the fine arts as a subject of study or interest.
     
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    Veraz

    Senior Member
    Spain Spanish
    Wow! I'm amazed at the high level of your contributions. It's been of great help, really. I did not understand the correct sense of "virtue" either.

    So, it is the connoisseurs themselves (or their souls) who get be-virtued, be-butterflied, be-fiddled, etc. That makes all of the sense.

    I understood "get" wrongly too. I thought they embellished the object of their "connoisseurship" (sorry for the odd word) to the extent of believing it had all the virtues. Pictures and butterflies were just random examples of beautiful things and I thought that "be-fiddled" was a counterpoint, that it meant that by embellishing by word these objects, they were deceiving (fiddle - trap).

    Now, I understand that "be-fiddled" is a counterpoint too if it does not refer to violins, but to trifles, but in a quite different sense.

    Thank you, all of you!!!
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Shawnee, here are some examples taken from the OED

    (1) with the meaning I quoted in post 9:
    1858 CARLYLE Fredk. Gt. III. viii. I. 266 No noble Nation sunk from virtue to virtù, ever offered such a spectacle before.
    1871 SMILES Charact. ix. (1876) 262 There [at Rome], the virtus or valour of the ancient Romans has characteristically degenerated into vertu, or a taste for knicknacks.

    (2) in the sense of objets d'art or curios:
    1746 H. WALPOLE Let. to G. Montagu 17 June, My books, my virtu, and my other follies and amusements take up too much of my time to leave me much leisure to think of other people's affairs.
    1768 Let. in J. H. Jesse Selwyn & Contemp. (1843) II. 308 My longing to see my own collection of virtu at Castle Howard is wonderful.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Yes:): it looks like people were using an Italian word that never became fully 'naturalised'.
     

    Redshade

    Banned
    UK
    English.
    Oh! So it's "virtu", not "virtue"!
    Yes.

    n. a love of the fine arts; a taste for curiosities; objects of art or antiquity collectively.

    According to my modest single-volume Chambers which whilst being adequate for my doing the crossword doesn't give quotes or usages so A BIG THANKYOU to Mrs Loob for her assistance above.
     
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