Let me hope my constitution is peculiar. (Wuthering Heights)

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OED Loves Me Not

Senior Member
Japanese - Osaka
Good evening, my dear language lovers of the world!

He’ll (= Heathcliff will) love and hate equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again. No, I’m (I = Mr Lockwood) running on too fast: I bestow my own attributes over-liberally on him. Mr. Heathcliff may have entirely dissimilar reasons for keeping his hand out of the way when he meets a would-be acquaintance, to those which actuate me. Let me hope my constitution is almost peculiar: my dear mother used to say I should never have a comfortable home; and only last summer I proved myself perfectly unworthy of one.

<<Deletion.>>("Wuthering Heights," Emily Bronte, Chapter 1)

(A note by OED Loves Me Not: Thus Mr Lockwood's story continues, telling us how he was totally unable to confess his love to his goddess. On the contrary, he just ignored her. His goddess ended up leaving the party at the sea-coast. This is how Mr Lockwood got disappointed in love.)

[My question]
What does the sentence in Gothics mean? I think I do understand it in its literal sense. It means something along the lines of: "I'd like to hope that I have a strange character." But why does he want to hope so? People usually do not want to have a strange character. If so, this remark by Mr Lockwood doesn't make sense. Or is he by any chance being ironical here? If so, what kind of irony is this?

I'd appreciate any input from anyone. Thank you very much.

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  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Good morning, OEDLMN;)

    "I'd like to hope that I have a strange character.":thumbsup:

    Lockwood is a mass of daft fancies and self-delusions: he thinks he's unique and peculiar, or at least he'd like to be unique and peculiar, or he'd like other people to think he's unique and peculiar ... and in this particular bit he's effectively saying he hopes Heathcliff isn't as unique and peculiar as he is, because being unique and peculiar is such a trial. When you boil it all down, what Lockwood says is mere fiddle-faddle, running off at the mouth:)


    Senior Member

    Not to disagree with ewie here, rather to add a further shade of explanation. In contemporary English, "peculiar" has come to mean, mainly, "odd", "unusual", "strange".

    But in an older and more literary sense it means "individual", "exclusive", "idiosyncratic", describing a trait or habit or characteristic that belongs uniquely to one person or institution .


    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    ewie and Scholiast, thank you very much for your kind help.
    I had forgotten to think of the word "peculiar" having possibly meant
    something different in old days from what it means today.

    As for words drastically different in form from those of today,
    I never forget to look them up in a large dictionary such as the OED
    before wondering what the text containing them can mean.

    But these words, which remain constant in form and seem
    simple and easy to understand, sometimes prove to be tricky.

    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    I'd like to add that I find ewie's character analysis of Lockwood interesting.
    I appreciate it. The more I read the novel, the more I love and hate Lockwood.

    As for the word "peculiar," allow me to quote some of its definitions offered by
    my goddess (The OED) who loves me not. :D:(


    A. 1. a.
    Distinguished in nature, character, or attributes from others;
    unlike others, sui generis;
    special, remarkable;
    In later use coloured by sense A. 5.

    A. 5. gen. (= general or generally)
    Singular, unusual, strange, odd.
    In earlier use not readily distinguishable from sense A. 1.

    (OED Online)
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