condemned to write on such paper as I chiefly made

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Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "condemned to write on such paper as I chiefly made" means in the following sentences:

'If that article were not so cheap and so abundant, people wouldn’t have so much temptation to scribble.’
Alfred Yule uttered a short laugh.
‘I think you are cornered, John.’
‘I wish,’ answered John, ‘that you were both condemned to write on such paper as I chiefly made; it was a special kind of whitey-brown, used by shopkeepers.’

- George Gissing, New Grub Street, Chapter 2

In this novel which is first published in 1891 in the United Kingdom, Jasper Milvain, a promising aspirant to become a literary critic, Alfred Yule, an established literary critic, and John Yule, the older brother of Alfred and who detests the literary business, were having a conversation. When John told Jasper that he should find other business to make a start than the literary business, Jasper, having heard that John has devoted his entire life to paper-making, told him that he was resposible in causing him to engage in the literary production after all, because he made paper so cheap and abundant.

In this part, I could not understand what "comdemned" exactly means in this context.
Does it mean that John would curse them to write on the paper he chiefly made if he could?
Or that he hoped that they would be doomed, or sentenced, to write on such paper?
(Those are just my wild guesses.)

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
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  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    As you say, John Yule 'detests the literary business'. When he's jokingly told that as a paper manufacturer he is responsible for writers producing literature he angrily retorts that they should have no choice but to write on the sort of paper he manufactured. 'Condemned is a melodramatic way of expressing that idea, as if writing was a crime.
    We have to think of the period this takes place, when authors wrote by hand using ink pens.
    The sort of paper he produced was very poor quality intended not for writing on but for wrapping groceries, as was the custom in those days when groceries and sweets/candy were not necessarily prepackaged but sold loose. Typically, the grocer would make a cone shaped bag, put the sugar or whatever into it, then twist the paper at the top.
    Good quality writing paper was expensive.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Hermione Golightly,

    Thank you very much for the detailed explanation!
    So John was saying that he hoped that the two would be proven guilty and get the punishment of having to write only on the whitish brown paper he chiefly made.
    Your explanation really helped me grasp its meaning! I truly appreciate your help. :)
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    Were they really threatened with a prison sentence?

    Sorry, I don't know the book but I read it to mean "Wouldn't it be great if we were forced to use the superior paper all the time!!" from this definition of "condemn" [the freedictionary.com]
    4. To force (someone) to experience, endure, or do something: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana).
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Were they really threatened with a prison sentence?

    Sorry, I don't know the book but I read it to mean "Wouldn't it be great if we were forced to use the superior paper all the time!!" from this definition of "condemn" [the freedictionary.com]
    4. To force (someone) to experience, endure, or do something: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana).
    :thumbsup:
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's just a friendly argument between brothers and is John's way of denying any involvement with the literary scene.

    Jasper has told him that as a paper-maker he is responsible for the fact that so many writers exist. Jasper is saying because of mass-produced paper, more people can afford to try their hand at writing.

    John's brother responds by saying, in effect, "He's trapped you, John. He's proven you are part of the literary business, whether you want to be or not." John's brother is needling him.

    John responds by saying that the kind of paper he makes is completely unsuitable for writing. If Jasper and his brother were forced to use that kind of paper for their literary work they would find it very unpleasant. So it's his wish that they be forced (condemned) to write on paper like that. Then they would realize he (John) really does have no connection to the literary world.

    The wish is not a real wish. It's a hypothetical wish to make a point during their "argument". Basically, it's two brothers "fighting" in the way that brothers do. They are battling each other with words and not fists.

    ‘I wish that you were both condemned to write on such paper.‘ = "You would hate writing on that kind of paper."
     
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    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Franco-filly, ewie, and kentix,

    Thank you so much for the detailed explanation!
    Then the two brothers were just fighting against each other, and the verb "to condemn" does not mean literally, but rather, it is a way of John to say that he had no part in making Jasper pursue his literary career.
    Now I see the flow here!
    I truly appreciate your help. :)
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    ‘I wish that you were both condemned to write on such paper.‘ = "You would hate writing on that kind of paper."
    Yes, I see that "such paper" means the inferior paper that he made (not a superior quality as I stated in post #4). I wish you had been/were obliged to write on that awful paper [then you'd know how difficult it is!]"
     
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