the poor abuses of all times want countenance

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t k

Senior Member
Korean - Korea
How easy was it to quote and follow them in an age when few reasonable men or women doubted that every syllable of the Old Testament was taken down verbatim from the mouth of God. Moreover, Puritanism restricted natural pleasures; it substituted the Jeremiad for the Pæan, and it forgot that the poor abuses of all times want countenance. (from THE WAY OF ALL FLESH, by Samuel Butler; a larger context is here; use ctrl-f to locate the sentence)

Please explain "the poor abuses of all times want countenance". Does it mean "the poor abuses [of children by parents] of all times are due to lack of self-control"? Thanks. --- tk
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's a quotation from Shakespeare. Falstaff is speaking.

    I don't know what "the poor abuses of the time" refers to.
    Lack countenance = are without favour/approval

    Regardless of how Shakespeare meant it, in your context I'd say that the phrase means "Ill-treatment (here, ill-treatment of children) at all times is not approved of (is unacceptable)".

    But let's wait for other opinions.


    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    There is no mention of children in the quoted text in post #1. Why do you imagine that "abuses" refers to "abuses of children"? I don't. Is there a wider context, in the play but not shown in post #1, that mentions "children"?
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    There is no mention of children in the quoted text in post #1
    But there is in the paragraph that contains the quoted text. See the link given in #1:

    It must be remembered that at the beginning of the nineteenth century the
    relations between parents and children were still far from satisfactory.
    The violent type of father, as described by...
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