in all things not perilous to do,

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Senior Member
Hi folks, this is cited from Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)

Question I think: he was not trying to run away in perilous duties, only triffle works, because Melville says contrary things to his lazyness in next pages.
Note: Italic one in bracket belonges to Melville

…And though the sailors were always very bitter against any thing like sogering, (a kind of lazyness I think) as they called it; that is, any thing that savored of a desire to get rid of downright hard work; yet, I observed that, though this Jackson was a notorious old soger the whole voyage (I mean, in all things not perilous to do, from which he was far from hanging back), and in truth was a great veteran that way, and one who must have passed unhurt through many campaigns; yet, they never presumed to call him to account in any way
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    Um, yes, your explanation is a little confusing, but I think you have the right idea. This man was not lazy when it came to difficult and dangerous tasks – only when it came to plain hard work (such as scrubbing the ship's decks, I imagine). Because he was so brave in dangerous situations, the sailors didn't criticise him for avoiding the 'hard work'.

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I agree with all of the above. The problem is in working out what "which" refers to. In modern English, I would unhesitatingly say it referred to "things not perilous to do", but Melville seems to use it to mean "things perilous to do". Although I have read quite a lot of literature from this period, I don't recall coming across this usage before. It would be more understandable if "things" could be omitted, so "which" just referred to "perilous to do", but that is not possible.
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