His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer.

I can understand each word ,but have difficulty understanding the whole sentence, would you please explain it for me?

  • 1
    That is an older, more mannered form of writing than we are used to today. In modern practice, we would say something like "Even the most casual observer could see he was an impressive individual."
    – Robusto
    Apr 4 '17 at 1:08
  • 5
    That book, A Study in Scarlet, is 130 years old. It contains old fashioned English. If you are a learner, it's probably not a good idea to read such old books, not unless you want to learn to speak like a Victorian gentleman or lady. I would suggest you read popular books from today.
    – Dangph
    Apr 4 '17 at 1:44

reference: dictionary.com

As mentioned by Dangph in the comments, "[this] book, A Study in Scarlet, is 130 years old. It contains old fashioned English".

Therefore to understand the meaning, look further down the dictionary descriptions and read the origin of each word.

His very person and appearance

very (adjective) 6. actual.

very (origin) 1200-50; Middle English < Anglo-French; Old French verai (French vrai) < Vulgar Latin *vērācus, for Latin vērāx truthful, equivalent to vēr(us) true

This means the true body, the actual human, how he looks, his "very person". This puts emphasis on his physical appearance. Instead of saying "he" as in "he drew attention", this is expanded to "his very person and appearance", drawing attention to how he looks and holds himself.

were such

such (pronoun) 10. someone or something indicated or exemplified

such before 900; Middle English such, swulch, suilch, Old English swilc, swelc < Germanic *swa so1 + *līko- like

Drawing emphasis, instead of saying "his appearance drew attention", there are additional words for emphasis, "his appearance was such", his appearance, was indicative of something that drew attention. His appearance was likened to a spectacle or something that drew attention.

as to strike the attention

strike (verb) 10. to enter the mind of and 13. to impress in a particular manner:

the (definite article) used, especially before a noun, with a specifying or particularizing effect

attention (noun) notice or awareness

attention 1275-1325; Middle English < Latin attentus attentive

To catch someone's attention. Instead, you could say "they noticed", however, this is nowhere near as dramatic "as to strike the attention", or to impress upon them the effect of his appearance. Basically means he was noticeable and stood out in a dramatic way. The crowd noticed and were aware of him.

of the most casual observer.

casual (adjective) 2. without definite or serious intention, passing.

An observer is someone who observes, someone who is watching like a member of the crowd. A casual observer is a non specific person, someone who passes by, no one in particular.

His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer.

So putting it all together, this sentence quite simply means, "he caught peoples attention", people in the crowd would stop and look at him.

I do agree with Robusto, this type of literature is not particularly helpful when learning english. It teaches definitions that are not commonly used and sentence structures that could result in garbled grammar. However, this text is useful for advanced language learners who are looking to write or author english literature, looking to understand english in greater depth, historians or poets.

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