Reading "The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe, I run into the following excerpt:

I say, after all this, any one would have thought that the native propensity to rambling which I gave an account of in my first setting out in the world to have been so predominant in my thoughts, should be worn out, and I might, at sixty one years of age, have been a little inclined to stay at home, and have done venturing life and fortune any more.

I suppose I have understood the sense of the quote above completely. However, I have no idea what grammar rules are behind it.

I have several questions:

1) If one replaces the first phrase in bold (to have been so predominant) with "which was so predominant", will the sense be the same?

2) Does the second phrase in bold (have done venturing life and fortune any more) mean "would not venture life and fortune any more"? Specifically, I do not grasp, why he uses no negation before "any more"? Would it be correct to replace "any more" with "no longer"?

3) What grammar rules describe the usages above?


4) The phrase "my first setting out in the world" isn't clear too. Does "a setting out" mean "a narration" here? And if so, why in the world instead of to the world? Or maybe "a setting out" is "a beginning (of a journey)"?

  • 1
    I don't understand the grammar of the first part of the sentence either. Have done = have finished with. Mar 14, 2020 at 17:08
  • I'm not gonna criticize Defoe, so I suppose ... propensity to rambling which I gave an account of ...to have been so predominant in my thoughts must have been okay for him and his contemporaries. But replacing that highlighted verb phrase with showed, demonstrated, established,... gives a construction that makes sense to my modern ear. I'd just use the simple infinitive to be so predominant, but I guess Present Perfect have been "kinda" makes sense there (or at least, it did to Defoe! :) Mar 14, 2020 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


1) I think this part: "gave an account ... to be so predominant..." should be separated out, so the structure left is "... anyone would have thought the native propensity to rambling should be worn out, and..."
So, "gave an account to be so predominant" doesn't work in modern English, but maybe it did then. At any rate, I can't assemble the whole otherwise.

2) "... I might have been ... inclined... and might have done venturing..."
Here, 'have done' has a negative sense, usually expressed in modern English as 'have done with', or 'be finished with'.

I would say that his native propensity to rambling was not worn out, but was transferred entire to his writing.

  • Thank you for the answer. I have added the 4th question. Take a look, please.
    – RussCoder
    Mar 15, 2020 at 10:16
  • From the context, it must mean his first narration. Usually, "setting out" would mean the start of a journey, but it also can mean "exposition", as you have noted. Mar 15, 2020 at 10:45

You must log in to answer this question.

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