lest sometimes you should...

Kayserada

Member
Spanish- Costa Rica
Dear all,

this sentence is from Wycherley's The Country Wife:

''(...) a lady should have a supernumerary gentleman-usher (...), lest sometimes you should be forced to stay at home''

What is the meaning of lest in this case? Thank you in advance.
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Could you please give us the full sentence, including the words you've omitted?

    Welcome to the forum.
     

    Kayserada

    Member
    Spanish- Costa Rica
    Sure, no problem.

    The whole sentence is:

    ''And a lady should have a supernumerary gentleman-usher as a supernumerary coach-horse, lest sometimes you should be forced to stay at home''

    Thank you.
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    lest sometimes you should be forced to stay at home
    =
    to avoid being forced to stay at home sometimes
    or
    so that you will not be forced to stay at home sometimes.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I think Hildy's interpretation goes better with the mention of the coach-horse and 'abroad': Horner is recommended to the lady for 2 reasons
    1) you often need another card player, and he is easy to cheat
    Besides,
    2) you have but two gentlemen to wait upon you abroad - take in the third into your service: a lady should have a supernumerary usher and a supernumerary coachhorse, lest you should be forced to stay at home.
     

    Kayserada

    Member
    Spanish- Costa Rica
    Thank you very much for the reply.

    Although, some pages after, Horner tells that he will not squire his wife about. What does he mean with to squire about, is it escort someone to places?

    Thank you again in advance.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Lady Fidget already has two men to accompany her when she goes out. Her husband suggests she needs someone to play cards with, someone who is easily cheated. She should have an extra "gallant" as a sort of spare for emergencies (just as she has an extra coachhorse in their stables in case one of the horses should be out of action), in case she is forced to stay at home.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Lady Fidget already has two men to accompany her when she goes out.
    Hmm, but the husband says: You have but two - take in the third into your service.
    That sort of reads as: you have only two, get a third one, no? Rather than as: you already have two.

    Although, some pages after, Horner tells that he will not squire his wife about. What does he mean with to squire about, is it escort someone to places?
    It seems that way to me, from a dictionary definition. Each new question requires a new thread, with full sentence and a wider context, though. Unless it is supplementary question to the previous one. Horner didn't promise any escorting, it was the husband, so I'm not sure if this later Horner's comment is connected in any way.

    Welcome to the forums!:)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I only have the context provided here so is the "stay at home" just referring to the horse comparison? Or is it saying she needs an extra gentleman available to go out with, in case the other gentlemen aren't available (since I'm guessing a woman could not go out alone in those social circles)? (If the horse wasn't available or the gentleman wasn't available she'd be forced to stay home in either case.)

    What does he mean with to squire about, is it escort someone to places?
    Yes, that's what it means.

    That's why I'm wondering if the meaning of the earlier quote was he wanted her to have an extra gentleman to usher/accompany her on the town (a "spare", as was mentioned).
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    I agree with siares' two reasons in #7.

    Also, if the author meant "in case", wouldn't a different conjunction be used instead of "lest"?

    WR dictionary definition of "lest":
    for fear that;
    so that (one) should not (used negatively to introduce a clause expressive of an action or occurrence requiring caution):
    He kept his notes by his side lest faulty memory lead him astray.
    lest - WordReference.com Dictionary of English

    With the intention of preventing (something undesirable); to avoid the risk of
    lest - definition of lest in English | Oxford Dictionaries
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    "Lest" was also sometimes used in the sense of "in case" - to suggest a sensible measure "just in case" it should prove to be required.
    Take an umbrella, lest it should rain.Take an umbrella, lest you should need it later on.


    An example from a novel (1846):
    I did not forget your dress of gala, lest you should need to go a courting where we shall be, you know ; or we may pick up some syren—very fine women they say, ...
    The Foster-brother
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I remember this newer example from Ripley Under Ground (1970), Ripley has a suitcase whose content he doesn't want anyone to see in a hotel room;
    Then he closed the suitcase lest a maid come in (though the bed had already been turned down), ...

    It seems to me that 'lest' and 'in case' are equally double-faced.:D

     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Original sentence:
    ''And a lady should have a supernumerary gentleman-usher as a supernumerary coach-horse, lest sometimes you should be forced to stay at home''

    This is what I understand it to be saying:
    ''And a lady should have a spare gentleman-usher just as she should have a spare coach-horse, to prevent the possibility of sometimes being forced to stay at home.''

    Thoughts?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    How can a spare gentleman usher prevent her having to stay home? Are the other two likely to be out of action at the same time?

    Anyway, Sir Jasper is trying to make sure his wife stays at home as much as possible, because he is a jealous husband.;)
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    But if she does go out, he wants her to go out with Horner, whom he thinks impotent, rather than with the other two. Another male character: I'm ready to wait upon the ladies (to go to a play). Sir Jasper: You, sir? No, I thank you for that... Master Horner is a privileged man amongst the virtuous ladies, 'twill be a long while before you are so, he, he, he! He's my wife's gallant, he, he, he!
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm less certain than I was in post 6. I had taken gentleman-usher as a reference to an 'indoors' position within the household. But the OED's entry for usher includes this definition:
    A male attendant on a lady. Obs[olete].
    a1625 [...]
    1649 W. Davenant Love & Honour i. i, Consumptive Ushers that are decay'd In their Ladies service.
    1664 S. Butler Hudibras: Second Pt. ii. i. 8 She call'd for hood And Usher, Implements abroad, Which Ladies wear.
    1749 T. Smollett tr. A. R. Le Sage Gil Blas I. i. xvi. 76 A lady who..was squired by an old usher [Fr. écuyer], and a little blackamoor carried her train.
    1809 B. H. Malkin tr. A. R. Le Sage Adventures Gil Blas I. i. xvi. 139 She released her sweet hand from the custody of the usher [Fr. écuyer].
    I now vote for Hildy's interpretation:).
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    And the card-playing? It sounds to me as though Sir Jasper envisions his wife staying home playing cards with Horner.

    Edit: From Act I of the play.
    Sir Jasper says to Horner:
    Pray, dine with me and play at Cards with my Wife after dinner. You are fit for Women at that game yet hah, ha! (Aside) 'Tis a Husband‟s prudence to provide innocent diversion for a Wife as to hinder her unlawful pleasures.

    It's logical for him to think that a woman safely at home playing cards (with a man presumed to be impotent) is less likely to go astray. It doesn't make a lot of sense to interpret "lest" in a way that makes Sir Jasper seem to be encouraging his wife to go out and about (granted that she will be accompanied by one of these gentlemen-ushers) and never be forced to stay at home.
     
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    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    It sounds to me as though Sir Jasper envisions his wife staying home playing cards with Horner.
    It could be that he is manipulating her by giving reasons which appeal to her: I can't directly stop her from going out, I'll pretend that I encourage her going out - as long as it is with a suitable man. So I'll force her to accept him as a companion:
    Do be friends with Horner!
    - you can get his money!
    - you will never be forced to stay at home again!

    I was not going by this wider context of Sir Jasper's state of mind, only by: 'only', 'abroad' and 'besides'.
    You only have two ushers to go out (abroad) with you; get a third one.

    Can this be about cards at home despite the 'abroad'? If so, still,

    'Besides' in my feel introduces a new line of thought. If the whole dialogue were about cards, two thoughts would be repeated, separated by besides:
    You'll have a card companion to make up your pack of players (and he's easy to cheat).
    Besides,
    you only have two, get a third one, it's proper to have a spare.

    (although the 'besides' could be going with only a part of the statement, with the properness of having a spare, which is, at a stretch, a new thought)


     
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    Kayserada

    Member
    Spanish- Costa Rica
    Hmm, but the husband says: You have but two - take in the third into your service.
    That sort of reads as: you have only two, get a third one, no? Rather than as: you already have two.

    It seems that way to me, from a dictionary definition. Each new question requires a new thread, with full sentence and a wider context, though. Unless it is supplementary question to the previous one. Horner didn't promise any escorting, it was the husband, so I'm not sure if this later Horner's comment is connected in any way.

    Welcome to the forums!:)
    Thank you. So ,should I post this question in another thread? I'm kind of new in writing in forums.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    My pleasure.
    The question about what 'squire about' means? Kentix in post 11 gave an answer agreeing with your interpretation.

    If you wish to discuss Horner's state of mind relevant to the currently discussed bit of dialogue (lest..), then 'squire about' in context can be discussed here as evidence for interpreting the OP one way or the other.

    If you want to ask more about 'squire about' as an isolated expression, not connected to the context here, then a new thread is required. Then in case you discover something new about Horner which would be relevant to this thread, you could always come back here.:)
     

    Kayserada

    Member
    Spanish- Costa Rica
    My pleasure.
    The question about what 'squire about' means? Kentix in post 11 gave an answer agreeing with your interpretation.

    If you wish to discuss Horner's state of mind relevant to the currently discussed bit of dialogue (lest..), then 'squire about' in context can be discussed here as evidence for interpreting the OP one way or the other.

    If you want to ask more about 'squire about' as an isolated expression, not connected to the context here, then a new thread is required. Then in case you discover something new about Horner which would be relevant to this thread, you could always come back here.:)
    Thank you for the information :).
     
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