(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XIV, published 1892)

Passage 224

“Captain,” I said at last, “there is something deuced underhand about this brig. You tell me you've been to sea a good part of your life. You must have seen shady things done on ships, and heard of more. Well, what is this? is it insurance? is it piracy? what is it about? what can it be for?”

“Mr. Dodd,” returned Nares, “you're right about me having been to sea the bigger part of my life. And you're right again when you think I know a good many ways in which a dishonest captain mayn't be on the square, nor do exactly the right thing by his owners, and altogether be just a little too smart by ninety-nine and three-quarters. There's a good many ways, but not so many as you'd think; and not one that has any mortal thing to do with Trent. Trent and his whole racket has got to do with nothing—that's the bed-rock fact; there's no sense to it, and no use in it, and no story to it—it's a beastly dream. And don't you run away with that notion that landsmen take about ships.

I take "not one . . . has any mortal thing to do with Trent" to mean "has dead certain nothing to do with Trent" or ". . . next to nothing to do with Trent, right? I've found the following figurative meaning in the Collins dictionary: 12. conceivable; possible // of no mortal value to the owners

  • 1
    I think you've found your own answer; I suggest you post it as an answer. It's not a common usage. We have here dialog from a 19th-century seaman; this usage isn't something you'd find in academic or even modern colloquial usage. But as you found, it's just thrown in as an intensifier. Oct 26, 2023 at 23:56

1 Answer 1


Merriam-Webster has this:

mortal adjective
2 b : possible, conceivable
have done every mortal thing

So you got it right, that phrase means:

...not one that has any conceivable thing to do with Trent

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