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I'm reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, and I've found it difficult to understand the meaning of the sentence pasted below. I suppose it can be roughly paraphrased to "I was monstrous, and ready to pronounce it that the child should be under an interdict"(if I made a mistake in the paraphrasing, please tell me). The points I want to know are "the function of the it before that-clause" and "the meanings of the that-clause and the whole sentence".

I'd appreciate it if you would answer my questions.

We met, after I had brought home little Miles, more intimately than ever on the ground of my stupefaction, my general emotion: so monstrous was I then ready to pronounce it that such a child as had now been revealed to me should be under an interdict.

These sentences are quoted from the beggining of Chapter 3, and the text is from this site(https://www.gutenberg.org/files/209/209-h/209-h.htm).

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  • Thank you for answering my question. I know this was posted a year ago, but the other day, I happened to see your answers written here and wondered what the "so" in "so monstrous" means. At the time when I first read the answers, I thought the "so" meant nearly "very". In the English written over 100 years ago, however, I guess the use of "so" meaning "very" had not been used as often as now. And my question is, is the "so" used for representing the meaning of "very" in this context?
    – Ampan
    Mar 4, 2023 at 21:02

3 Answers 3

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This is all very dated English. I hope you are enjoying this book, as it will not be an easy read for a learner.

"Pronounce" here seems to be "pronounce judgement". And the judgement that the speaker is making is that it is monstrous. The thing that is monstrous is the fact that the child is under an interdict.

An interdict is a prohibition or ban. It seems to refer to Miles being banned from his school.

You could in this dated style say:

What do you think of the cake?

I pronounce the cake most excellent!

To mean "I judge the cake to be excellent". And you could invert this, for rhetorical effect:

Most excellent I pronounce the cake.

This seems to be the structure that appears here.

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It's a rather convoluted sentence.

She was then (at that time) ready to pronounce it monstrous (to say that it was shocking) that such a child... should be under an interdict (forbidden from doing something). It is a dummy pronoun.

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Little Miles has been refused permission to return somewhere. That is what the interdict is.
The person speaking has brought Miles home with her; she has been discussing with a woman (we met...) who had previous contact with Miles, trying to understand why Miles was rejected. She feels (as stupefaction and general emotion) that the rejection of Miles was monstrous, given how Miles appears to her (such a child as had now been revealed to me).

Note - I haven't read the work, and I've looked at it only enough to try to understand this one sentence, so this is a guess

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