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Experience teaches me that whatever a fellow-guest may have of power to instruct or to amuse when he is sitting in a chair, or standing on a hearth-rug, quickly leaves him when he takes one out for a walk. The ideas that come so thick and fast to him in any room, where are they now ? Where that encyclopedic knowledge which he bore so lightly? Where the kindling fancy that played like summer lightning over any topic that was started?

Is "bore" here a poetic way to say "dig the encyclopedic knowledge" or the past tense of "bear", or something else?

  • The phrasing is "poetic", but bore here is just a slightly fancier alternative to carried, held. The idea being that although the guy has all this (weighty, substantial) knowledge, he doesn't come across as ponderous / serious. – FumbleFingers May 23 at 12:03
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In the context, the verb "bore" must be in the past tense. Therefore, the infinitive is "to bear":

bear (verb) (CARRY) = to carry or bring something:

  • Fans bearing banners ringed the stadium.

So the meaning of the sentence would be:

What about the knowledge that he carried so lightly?

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