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Translating one of Lovecraft's stories, I got stuck because of the following sentence:

where lay a gulf all the blacker for its glittering walls.

Particularly, it is the "all the" combined with "for" part.

My possible interpretations:

  1. ..even more black than the (already) very bright/great glitter of its walls
  2. ...blacker despite the glitter of the walls (as if the blackness set off the contrast)
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  • It's a little bit "stylised", but you'll often hear people say after they've taken some medicine, followed some exercise regime, or similar, that they feel all the better for having done so. Many people will have first encountered the format from Little Red Riding Hood's "What big teeth you have, Grandma!". To which The Big Bad Wolf (disguised as Grandma) replies All the better to eat you with! Feb 10 at 14:43
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For reference you might want to read the definition of "all the more so". You can say something has a particular quality and then follow that by adding that the quality is "all the more so" for a particular reason. Or, as in your example, you can say it in one statement by using a comparative adjective (eg one ending 'er', such as tinier, smoother, faster etc) and say "all the [smooth]er for...".

In your example, 'all the blacker' means that the aforementioned 'gulf' was more black because it has glittering walls. You would take from this that, even without the glittering walls it would be black, but more so because of them. What that means in real terms is either open to interpretation or requires the wider context of the book.

A comparable example using the same syntax would be "the cake was all the sweeter for having extra sugar in it".

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  • That sentence sounds like something they would ask in a GRE question. "All the more so" is a quite common phrase, but "all the blacker" sounds so odd. Is this like very old English or something?
    – AIQ
    Feb 10 at 10:31
  • @AIQ "All the blacker" isn't a known idiom... it's just making use of a recognisable turn of phrase. You can use pretty much any comparative adjective - "the burger was all the tastier for the delicious sauce".
    – Astralbee
    Feb 10 at 11:21
  • Worth adding that “All the X for Y” is most often used when Y is in some way *contrasting” with X. So its use in your cake example seems slightly un-idiomatic to me — I’d expect it more in something like “the cake was all the sweeter for the tart gooseberry sauce with it”.
    – PLL
    Apr 4 at 12:31

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