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Consider this sentence:

It was a subject, however, in which she often indulged with her fair friend, from whom she received every possible encouragement to continue to think of him; and his impression on her fancy was not suffered therefore to weaken.

I am very much confused by the emphasized part, I can kind of gather what it is supposed to mean from context, but I am nowhere near properly understanding it.

The source is Northanger Abbey (1803).

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and his impression on her fancy was not suffered therefore to weaken.

The sentence means that what she thought of him or her opinion of him or his impression on her imagination ('his impression on her fancy'), from whom she received encouragements, didn't decrease at all, didn't diminish ('was not suffered therefore to weaken').

In short words:

  • what she thought of him didn't change at all;
  • what she thought of him didn't go down at all (as suggested by @J.R.);
  • what she thought of him wasn't allowed to weaken (to suffer has an archaic meaning: to tolerate or allow someone to do something);
  • the extent to which she liked him was not diminished (as suggested by @Lambie).

The book you quoted is pretty old (from 1803), so I'd not be surprised if there're other sentences or terms nowadays archaic or no more used.

  • Oh, would that usage of suffered to be similar to something like destined to? If so it's that that therefore threw me off. – TonCherAmi Oct 5 '18 at 14:01
  • Nope, suffered to meant exactly what to suffer means in English. His impression on her didn't suffer or didn't experience something bad that made it weaker on her imagination. Yes, I think anyway therefore in that position is what made the sentence not so understandable to you. – Alberto Solano Oct 5 '18 at 14:07
  • @AlbertoSolano I meant that as in terms of it being a similar grammatical structure. Destined is often used in this way unlike suffered therefore I brought it up as an example. – TonCherAmi Oct 5 '18 at 14:14
  • @TonCherAmi Yes, I understood that. I looked for it but I didn't find any source or information about being a similar grammatical structure to destined to. Can you provide me a source about it? – Alberto Solano Oct 5 '18 at 14:17
  • @AlbertoSolano well I mean they look pretty much the same. Also I think the actual meaning of suffer here would be to tolerate as indicated here. – TonCherAmi Oct 5 '18 at 14:24
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It was a subject, however, in which she often indulged with her fair friend, from whom she received every possible encouragement to continue to think of him; and his impression on her fancy was not suffered therefore to weaken.

Ok, so this is early 19th century language. Today, we would say: the fact he liked her (impression on her fancy) therefore was not allowed to (today: did not) weaken.

The old meaning of suffer was allow or permit.

Perhaps best known to English speakers from the Bible phrase: Suffer the little children to come unto me....[Mathew 19:4]

Today, fancy, the verb, is still used a lot in BrE: Do you fancy a drink? AmE: Would you like to have a drink. Also, for example: "He fancies her." That means "He likes her." in the sense of:he wants to date her or go out with her.

The noun is less used today but was very much in use in the 19th century to mean. In the passage, therefore, her fancy means: her liking him or her fondness for him.

Samuel Johnson's dictionary of 1828 has imagination for fancy, of course, but it also means: fondness, liking, caprice, humor, and others, all of which stand in contrast to reason. In other words, a fancy is something that does not derive from reason; it may arise in the imagination but the word cannot be reduced to the word imagination only. The dictionary was published some 30 years after the novel cited in the question. So the definition is relevant.

A Dictionary of the English Language, Vol. I

  • fancy refers to the faculty of imagining, the imagination; it is not a noun that refers to a person's liking for another person.. How could there be an "impression" upon "her liking him". Something or someone "strikes your fancy", that is, it makes an impression upon your imagination so that you want it, or want to do it. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 5 '18 at 18:55
  • The sentence says "his impression on her fancy" not "his impression on her". Fancy is necessarily imagination. It just is. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 6 '18 at 8:29
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo The meaning is much broader than just imagination. Although a fancy arises in the imagination rather than reason. – Lambie Oct 6 '18 at 14:15
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“his impression on her fancy” means the impression she has of him in her imagination. “was not suffered therefore to weaken” means that instead of weakening the impression she has of him, it increases it. So, in simpler terms: Since he is often the subject of her and her friend, and because her friend encourages her to think a lot about him, the impression she has of him in her imagination increases.

  • Something can be "not weakened" but that doesn't mean it's increased. It could just be staying the same. In other words, "hasn't gone down" is not the same as "has gone up." – J.R. Oct 5 '18 at 15:15
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There, suffered = allowed .

Her fair friend did not let the impression he had made upon her imagination weaken but took every opportunity to encourage her to keep thinking about him.

But since the statement is made in the passive voice, there is some ambiguity as to who is not allowing the impression to weaken. The impression remained strong either because her fair friend took every opportunity to encourage her to keep thinking of him, or because she responded to such encouragement by continually thinking of him—or both.

  • That's not quite correct, she's talking to her friend about a third party and it's that third party's impression on her fancy that is not allowed to weaken. Sorry for the lack of context. – TonCherAmi Oct 5 '18 at 14:49
  • @TonCherAmi OK. I didn't know who "her fair friend" was. But the meaning is otherwise the same. We can substitute "her fair friend' for "he". I've edited the sentence. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 5 '18 at 14:51

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