travelling out of my brief

YutaBacon

Member
Japanese
Hello,

Would someone be so kind to explain me what does phrase "travelling out of my brief" mean in this paragraph:

"It is wonderful, though," he said to himself as he shuffled out of the room—"it is wonderful that she should have liked him. However, the match is good. I should have been travelling out of my brief to have hindered it, let Mrs. Cadwallader say what she will. He is pretty certain to be a bishop, is Casaubon. " (George Eliot, Middlemarch, Chapter 7)

The context is that Mrs Brooke chooses to marry Casaubon, who is old and scholastic. Here, Mr. Brooke comments his niece's marriage to Casaubon.

Thanks!

< Edited to comply with 4 line limit on quotation. Cagey, moderator >
 
Last edited:
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    This is dated English and I find this bit rather quaint :) If I understand it correctly, it says something like

    preventing it/standing in its way would have been against my principles/ideas/beliefs - it would have been against the higher goals I pursue

    But let's see what others think as well. I am also interested.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I would understand brief here to be related to how we still say a lawyer's brief (and the word briefcase). It means what you have responsibility for. He is saying that it's not his place to object to the marriage, it is not his business. Isn't this character a local magistrate? Or am I misrembering the book?
     

    YutaBacon

    Member
    Japanese
    Yes,
    Me. Brooke is a magistrate.

    I cannot understand the part of ‘should have been traveling’. I think it is the subjunctive. So I interpret the sentence: he wishes he had objected to her marriage, but because it was not his place to object to it, he didn’t say anything against it.
    Is it right?
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    No, it's the older British subjunctive should, not the modern use.

    If I were to object to the marriage, I would be speaking about things that are not my business.

    He is saying this before the marriage. He is her guardian.

    He wonders why the lovely young woman wants to marry the old scholar. Like everyone else in her family, he thinks it's in appropriate. However, if she likes Causabon, her uncle thinks he has no right to object to the marriage. It's a "good" marriage because Causabon has enough money and career prospects. If Causabon had a bad character or financial problems, as her guardian the magistrate would have felt it his duty to say something. But as it stands, he has no right to object.
     

    YutaBacon

    Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much! Your explanations are very helpful!

    Then, what does the phrase ‘let Mrs. Cadwallader say what she will’ mean? I don't understand the grammar here, especially the usage of the word ‘let’ .
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I should have been travelling out of my brief to have hindered it,

    It's conditional "should" rather than "would". It used to be common practice to use first person shall/should instead of today's will/would. Some speakers still make this distinction.

    If I had hindered it, I would have been travelling out of my brief. (I would have been intervening in something I had no business to intervene in.)
     
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