by consumption I, in my ignorance, understood something mild

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Irelia20150604

Senior Member
Chinese
The context comes from Jane Eyre Chapter 9

True, reader; and I knew and felt this: and though I am a defective being, with many faults and few redeeming points, yet I never tired of Helen Burns; nor ever ceased to cherish for her a sentiment of attachment, as strong, tender, and respectful as any that ever animated my heart. How could it be otherwise, when Helen, at all times and under all circumstances, evinced for me a quiet and faithful friendship, which ill-humour never soured, nor irritation never troubled? But Helen was ill at present: for some weeks she had been removed from my sight to I knew not what room upstairs. She was not, I was told, in the hospital portion of the house with the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption, not typhus: and by consumption I, in my ignorance, understood something mild, which time and care would be sure to alleviate.
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Hi everyone! I don't quite understand the bold part. The major problem seems to lie in the words "by" and "understood". I interpret it as "with respect to consumption I, in my ignorance, understand it as something mild...". Is it correct?
 
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    The past tense has been used throughout the passage you've quoted and the narrator continues to speak about her past "ignorance."
    (In case it's not clear, "consumption" is now called "tuberculosis.")
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    ====
    Hi everyone! I don't quite understand the bold part. The major problem seems to lie in the words "by" and "understood". I interpret it as "with respect to consumption I, in my ignorance, understand it as something mild...". Is it correct?
    Yes, in other words "on hearing the word consumption I took it to be mean something mild...
     
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