He is absurd enough to be conscientious

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Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "He is absurd enough to be conscientious" means in the following sentences:

"Oh, I don’t mean that for ME the work-girl would be preferable; by no means; but for a man like Reardon. He is absurd enough to be conscientious, likes to be called an “artist,” and so on. He might possibly earn a hundred and fifty a year if his mind were at rest, and that would be enough if he had married a decent little dressmaker. He wouldn’t desire superfluities, and the quality of his work would be its own reward."

- George Gissing, New Grub Street, Chapter 1

Jasper Milvain, the protagonist of the novel, which was first published in 1891 in the United Kingdom, is criticizing his friend Reardon, who is a very hard-working but poor novelist. Reardon wouldn't write anything below his standards; he values Greek and Latin poetry, and strains to produce something close to it with noble artistic skills, but he cannot appeal to masses, resulting in the low popularity of his works. That is why Milvain, who has low moral standards and is meant to succeed as a literary critic and would write anything that would bring him fame, criticizes him that he is "absurd enough to be conscientious."

In this part, I could not understand what "conscientious" means.
Does it mean that Reardon puts too much effort into his works? Or that he is so ethical that he couldn't write below his moral standards?
Also, I am having difficulties in understanding the "absurd enough" part.
Does the expression mean "he is so absurd that he is conscientious in his works"?

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • Starless74

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    As for previous passages about Reardon and his relationship with his wife, this is ironical:

    He is a conscientious man, which the speaker believes to be "absurd" = the speaker implies being conscientious is not an advantageous/wise way to be. Or something like that. :D
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Starless74 and trellis,

    Thank you very much for the clear explanations!
    Then Jasper thought Reardon to be far from wise, because he is very meticulous in producing his works.
    I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It can be taken as a cynical remark, implying that it’s absurd to value integrity/high principles more highly than money.
     
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