despair of nothing we would attain

xanadu.

New Member
English - USA
Hello all,

The following is from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

The aunt of the protagonist is upset that the family knows no one else in Bath, and repeatedly tells her niece "how pleasant it would be if [they] had more acquaintance" there.

The text bellow follows:

This sentiment had been uttered so often in vain, that Mrs. Allen had no particular reason to hope it would be followed with more advantage now; but we are told to "despair nothing we would attain," as "unwearied diligence our point would gain"...
What exactly does the portion in red mean?

I was wondering if it was some outdated adage, or from a popular text, but I can't find any reference to it online.

interpretations?

thanks :)
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Presumably these are two neighbouring quotations from a poem, as the language is rather poetic*. In the first quotation, 'would' is being used as the remote form of 'will' in its original meaning "want": something we would obtain = something we want (might want) to obtain. In normal English the verb 'despair' needs the preposition 'of' (despair of nothing we might want to obtain), but here poetically it takes a direct object.

    In the second quotation the object precedes the verb, after the subject, not possible in normal non-poetic English, where we would say, 'unwearied diligence would gain our point'. Here 'point' means "thing we want".

    * I've just noticed in your profile you're a native speaker: sorry, I was writing to a foreign learner.
     

    xanadu.

    New Member
    English - USA
    I take it to mean: Don't look down on anything we gain, because our point has been proven by the fact that we gained from our diligence.
    I like this take on it... it's like the means justify the end. Because it was hard work (or at least emotionally taxing to desire it), the result is so much more enjoyable.
     

    xanadu.

    New Member
    English - USA
    Presumably these are two neighbouring quotations from a poem, as the language is rather poetic*. In the first quotation, 'would' is being used as the remote form of 'will' in its original meaning "want": something we would obtain = something we want (might want) to obtain. In normal English the verb 'despair' needs the preposition 'of' (despair of nothing we might want to obtain), but here poetically it takes a direct object.

    In the second quotation the object precedes the verb, after the subject, not possible in normal non-poetic English, where we would say, 'unwearied diligence would gain our point'. Here 'point' means "thing we want".

    * I've just noticed in your profile you're a native speaker: sorry, I was writing to a foreign learner.
    Thanks for the grammatical take though! :)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I found this on a blog called Writing and Ruminating:
    Note for curious poetry fans: The quoted lines "'despair of nothing we would attain,' as 'unwearied diligence our point would gain'" come from a copy-book for children called A Guide to the English Tongue by Thomas Dyche, first printed in 1707. (Kelly Fineman, Aug. 3, 2009)
     
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