I feel like there is a slight difference between "under many minutes" and "in many minutes" in the following sentence, but I cannot tell what or why. Could anyone help, please?

The context is:

Elizabeth has just told her mother that she has been engaged with Darcy.

When her mother went up to her dressing-room at night, she followed her, and made the important communication. Its effect was most extraordinary, for, on first hearing it, Mrs. Bennet sat quite still, and unable to utter a syllable. Nor was it under many, many minutes, that she could comprehend what she heard, though not in general backward to credit what was for the advantage of her family, or that came in the shape of a lover to any of them. She began at length to recover, to fidget about in her chair, get up, sit down again, wonder, and bless herself.

from Pride & Prejudice

  • 1
    Under many minutes is an unusual usage. I don't know if it was common in Jane Austen's day, but today we would say for many minutes in this context. – Kate Bunting May 19 '20 at 8:31
  • not that I could recall any. – user86301 May 19 '20 at 9:12
  • You can't recall any what? – Kate Bunting May 19 '20 at 9:17
  • sorry for the confusion. I mean it's the first time I saw the author use "under" in this novel, if I remember correctly. – user86301 May 19 '20 at 9:20
  • sorry to disturb you again. but would you bother to take a look of the comments under the Answer. do you agree that "backward" means "Unwilling to act; reluctant; shy."? if you have time. – user86301 May 19 '20 at 9:31

Nor was it under many, many minutes, that she could comprehend what she heard

It means that not less than many minutes passed before she could comprehend.
(It took her quite a while to understand.)

So, "in many minutes" misses the "less than" meaning.

though not in general backward to credit what was for the advantage of her family,

though usually, she was not slow to believe things that were of advantage,
(She was quick to believe those things.).

  • I found in dictionary that backward could mean"(of a person) having learning difficulties”,or "behind in time, progress, or development"; but I can't find its meaning of "slow". I wonder which explanation is more close to "slow"? – user86301 May 19 '20 at 9:19
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    @user86301 The sense here is similar to that in American Heritage Dictionary "3. Unwilling to act; reluctant; shy." She was not reluctant to believe something she thought to be to her advantage, so she was quick to believe it. – Jack O'Flaherty May 19 '20 at 9:23
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    @user86301 I think this writing is challenging even to a native English speaker, partly because it was written so long ago, and partly because the writer seems to like writing complicated things. Good luck with it. – Jack O'Flaherty May 19 '20 at 9:32
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    In British conversation, if someone is noticeably not shy, we can say they are "not backward about coming forward", especially, but not exclusively, in connection with approaching potential sexual or dating partners. – Michael Harvey May 19 '20 at 9:55
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    @user86301 Yes, it's saying she is not usually backward = not shy = not reluctant. Don't miss the negation. – Jack O'Flaherty May 19 '20 at 9:55

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