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The ladies had not been long in the drawing-room, before the other ladies, in their different divisions, arrived. Emma watched the entree of her own particular little friend; and if she could not exult in her dignity and grace, she could not only love the blooming sweetness and the artless manner, but could most heartily rejoice in that light, cheerful, unsentimental disposition which allowed her so many alleviations of pleasure, in the midst of the pangs of disappointed affection. There she sat—and who would have guessed how many tears she had been lately shedding?

Emma by Jane Austen chapter 8 volume 2

Here Emma observes her friend Harriet's entry, who was turned down by Mr.Elton.

My question is what does alleviation of pleasure mean?

When I encounter alleviation of X , the X is always something unpleasant like ( pain, headache, suffering). So I'm really confused about its using here.

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    It is an odd use of the word. Presumably the meaning is that Harriet is able to enjoy moments of pleasure to alleviate the unhappiness of her disappointment about Mr. Elton. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 12:21
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    Rephrasing it slightly: . . . which allowed her the pleasure of alleviating the pangs of disappointed affection. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 12:29
  • Yes, the pleasures alleviate her disappointments.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 13:51

2 Answers 2

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It is indeed a bit confusing. Most likely, Austen is using "of pleasure" to describe the nature of the alleviations, not, as would be more typical nowadays, to indicate the thing being alleviated.

Put another way, it could be understood as a short form of:

...which allowed her so many alleviations [of her troubles, consisting] of pleasure...

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alleviations of pleasure means here:

the alleviation that pleasure brings.

Yes, very often followed by a negative but as we see here, not always.

Pleasure alleviates pangs of disappointed affection.

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