do someone at second-hand


Senior Member
Japanese - Osaka
Hello all,

The following passage is from Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39), Chapter 18. Kate Nickleby's first day of work at the Mantalinis being over, she walks home with the house's forewoman, Miss Knag, and then encounters her mother, Mrs. Nickleby.

As poor Mrs. Nickleby was cooling -- not her heels alone, but her limbs generally at the street corner, Kate had no alternative but to make her known to Miss Knag, who, doing the last new carriage customer at second-hand, acknowledged the introduction with condescending politeness. The three then walked away, arm in arm: with Miss Knag in the middle, in a special state of amiability.

I have no idea what the underlined part means. What exactly did Miss Knag do? I wish I could provide more context, but I don't even know whether "the last new carriage customer" is Mrs. Nickleby or someone else. Given the absence of anyone else in this scene, it would probably be Mrs. Nickleby but I'm not sure since there is no description how she had got there, (or is there?).

Any help will be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
  • Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I understand it this way:

    Some people without breeding or manners can become rich and then have a tendency to give themselves all kinds of airs and graces, condescending to those who were their betters only a short time previously. These "new money" people would obviously have new carriages, and some would probably be customers in Madame Mantalini's millinery shop.

    To "do somebody at second hand" is to imitate them.

    So Miss Knag imitated the condescension displayed by the most recent "new money" customer in the shop and acknowledged the introduction with condescending politeness.

    Just my two cents.


    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    Thank you, Rival, for your clarification. Your two cents are worth more than two hundred pounds;)

    So the underlined part describes the way Miss Knag acknowledged Kate's introduction of her mother, and Miss Knag, having seen those "new carriage customers" giving themselves airs, acted like one. That makes total sense.
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