To wax lachrymose

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Schizophrenic Cat

Senior Member
Turkish
Hi.

The following is a sentence from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte:

( Protagonist reads a writing on an empty page of a book in which someone named Catherine tells about a small part in her life. And then, during his read, the part where this phrase is mentioned comes: ) ... ''I reached this book, and a pot of ink from the shelf, and pushed the house-door ajar to give me light, and I have got the time on with writing for twenty minutes; but my companion is impatient, and proposes that we should appropriate the dairy woman's cloak, and have a scamper on the moors, under its shelter. A pleasant suggestion - and then, if the surly old man come in, he may believe his prophecy verified - we cannot be damper, or colder, in the rain than we are here.''

I suppose Catherine fulfilled her project, for the next sentence took up another subject: she waxed lachrymose.

''How little did I dream that Hindley would ever make me cry so!''

( The parts in quotation marks are told by Catherine, while the I-suppose sentence is told by the main character. )

Given this context, what is the meaning of 'to wax lachrymose'? To begin to write in an emotional way? Thanks in advance.
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Lachrymose doesn't mean just any kind of emotional, it specifically means tearful. She is speaking or writing in a tearful manner: She is crying.
     
    Hi.

    The following is a sentence from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte:

    ( Protagonist reads a writing on an empty page of a book in which someone named Catherine tells about a small part in her life. And then, during his read, the part where this phrase is mentioned comes: ) ... ''I reached this book, and a pot of ink from the shelf, and pushed the house-door ajar to give me light, and I have got the time on with writing for twenty minutes; but my companion is impatient, and proposes that we should appropriate the dairy woman's cloak, and have a scamper on the moors, under its shelter. A pleasant suggestion - and then, if the surly old man come in, he may believe his prophecy verified - we cannot be damper, or colder, in the rain than we are here.''

    I suppose Catherine fulfilled her project, for the next sentence took up another subject: she waxed lachrymose.

    ''How little did I dream that Hindley would ever make me cry so!''

    ( The parts in quotation marks are told by Catherine, while the I-suppose sentence is told by the main character. )

    Given this context, what is the meaning of 'to wax lachrymose'? To begin to write in an emotional way? Thanks in advance.
    Who is the companion?
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    I'm reminded of something Barbara Stanwyck said, "I used to think drama was when the actors cry; drama is when the audience cries."

    To wax lachrymose means to allow one's writing to become maudlin, to tug at the reader's heartstrings, in a way that seems calculated to provoke the reader to cry. So your original suggestion about writing "in an emotional way" was not at all far from the mark.
     
    I'm reminded of something Barbara Stanwyck said, "I used to think drama was when the actors cry; drama is when the audience cries."

    To wax lachrymose means to allow one's writing to become maudlin, to tug at the reader's heartstrings, in a way that seems calculated to provoke the reader to cry. So your original suggestion about writing "in an emotional way" was not at all far from the mark.
    This plainly does not fit the passage under discussion, which says,

    //I [Lockwood] suppose Catherine fulfilled her project, for the next sentence took up another subject: she waxed lachrymose.

    ''How little did I [Catherine] dream that Hindley would ever make me cry so!''//


    The narrator, Lockwood, reading Catherine's writing says, "She [Catherine] waxed lachrymose [and wrote] 'How little did I dream that Hindley would ever make me[Catherine] cry so.' "

    So Catherine's writing is while she, Catherine, is crying. It's not the case that Catherine's writing is said to make 'the reader' or, here, Lockwood, cry.

    So despite the brilliance of Stanwyck's observation, it's not, here, the reader or audience who's crying.
     
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    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    In the previous paragraphs Cathy and Heathcliff have been violently defiant of Hindley's authority. They've been told 'Old Nick' (the devil) is coming to take them away and like stubborn and unruly children (which is largely what they are and remain throughout the book) they await his arrival unbowed, preferring to be dragged off to hell like Don Giovanni rather than bend to Hindley's will. The "project" the narrator presumes she fulfilled was to run off into the moors with Heathcliff despite the rain. Cathy is a force of nature. When the narrator says that after a clear break in the narrative she now "waxed lachrymose" he's saying that the defiant voice Cathy previously presented is now gone and her words are suddenly relatively maudlin and self-pitying. It's not a critique, it's a statement of fact. It has nothing specifically to do with whether or not she's crying. He's describing the tone of the text, which is so different from what had preceded it. When you hear a hell hound whimper, you take notice.
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    I wrote, "It has nothing specifically to do with whether or not she's crying" where it should be clear enough that the antecedent of the "it" is not the passage Cathy wrote, as you try--- perversely and/or ingeniously???--- to pretend, but to the statement of the narrator, which is the subject of this thread. He's not commenting on her tears, he's not saying "she got all weepy all of a sudden", he's commenting on the change in tone; the tears are incidental.

    Here's another quote I found:

    "The effect of the weather on the men was diverse; one waxed truculent and offered to fight any man aboard the ship for a “quid,” another waxed lachrymose and regretted his past misdeeds, a third became abased and confided to his fellows ..."

    Did the second man weep? He might have. It doesn't matter. The point of saying he "waxed lachrymose" is to say that he became maudlin. That is all.
     
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