She [Marianne] was perfectly disposed to make every allowance for the colonel [Brandon]'s advanced state of life which humanity required.

In particular what is meant by advanced state? And what exactly is required by humanity?

  • 1
    "advanced state of life" is a polite way of saying he is old. People commonly use the phrase "advanced age" to talk about people who are old.
    – mstorkson
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 23:03

1 Answer 1


First, recognize that Austen's verbiage can seem excessively polite when compared with modern English. "She was perfectly disposed" means "she would", and "his advanced state of life" is a euphemism for "he is old".

Today, if we wanted to be similarly polite, we would instead say, "he is elderly," or, "at his advanced age," or sometimes, "at his time of life". Not really all that different, but then again these are not normally used in casual conversation.

Second, the adverbial phrases are in a confusing order. We could rewrite as:

She was perfectly disposed to make every allowance which humanity required for the colonel's advanced state of life.

In other words, she was more than happy to do as much as she could to accommodate the elderly colonel. I've not read the novel, but I assume he had some (or perhaps many) infirmities as a result of his age.

[Edit] Apparently in the novel Colonel Brandon is only 35, which apparently Marianne considers elderly and decrepit. In this case the phrase is very likely meant to be satire.

  • As OP asked specifically about humanity, it might be worth mentioning that it is used in the sense of empathy or compassion. It's not an obligation forced on her by popular opinion, as one might possibly read it.
    – richardb
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 16:52
  • @richardb Thanks that's a good point, although because I don't know the full context and I'm not familiar with all of the idioms of that time period, I wouldn't want to say for certain that it was an actual reference to doing what is "humane". Instead it may be an archaic version of the modern expression "as much as humanly possible".
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 18:04
  • Colonel Brandon is 35, which the 16 year old Marianne considers extremely old.
    – ssav
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 15:48
  • @ssav Ha! Then the expression is definitely meant to be "tongue-in-cheek" and satirical. Hilarious.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 15:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .