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

Passage 241

“We've been pretty good friends, you and me, Mr. Dodd,” he resumed. “We've been going through the kind of thing that tries a man. We've had the hardest kind of work, we've been badly backed, and now we're badly beaten. And we've fetched through without a word of disagreement. I don't say this to praise myself: it's my trade; it's what I'm paid for, and trained for, and brought up to. But it was another thing for you; it was all new to you; and it did me good to see you stand right up to it and swing right into it—day in, day out. And then see how you've taken this disappointment, when everybody knows you must have been tautened up to shying-point! I wish you'd let me tell you, Mr. Dodd, that you've stood out mighty manly and handsomely in all this business, and made every one like you and admire you. And I wish you'd let me tell you, besides, that I've taken this wreck business as much to heart as you have; something kind of rises in my throat when I think we're beaten; and if I thought waiting would do it, I would stick on this reef until we starved.”

I tried in vain to thank him for these generous words, but he was beforehand with me in a moment.

“I didn't bring you ashore to sound my praises,” he interrupted. “We understand one another now, that's all; and I guess you can trust me. What I wished to speak about is more important, and it's got to be faced. What are we to do about the Flying Scud and the dime novel?”

I don't exactly understand this wording. I've looked it up in the dictionaries and I think it has something to do with 'self-praise' but I could be wrong. What exactly does . . . to sound my praises mean in this context?

  • 1
    sing someone's praises is probably more common than "sound someone's praises", but it has the same meaning: see the meanings of sound as a verb.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 2, 2023 at 15:00
  • I have recommended that many of these questions were better suited for english.stackexchange.com as they weren't usually about current standard English but about argot, or phrases no longer in use, and ELL wasn't suited to that kind of question. This one was an exception. Nov 3, 2023 at 17:20
  • 1
    A good companion to the story would be an encyclopedic dictionary published in the 19th century. Websters unabridged published in 1898 is a good one, as it comprises the editions published in 1864, 1879, abd 1884. Nov 3, 2023 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


The captain has been praising Dodd mightily. When Dodd attempts to thank him, and to say that the captain's words of praise were generous, the captain cuts him off with "I didn't bring you ashore to sound my praises."

To sound the praises of someone means "to celebrate them, to honor them". The captain is saying that he didn't bring Dodd ashore so that Dodd could praise him.

It isn't self-praise. That idea would be expressed as "I didn't bring you ashore to sound my own praises."


He's merely shutting off the flattery the narrator has been laying on fairly thick. Here's a concise translation:

"Look, we have more important matters to discuss right now, so let's move on to those. Flattery can take a back seat just now."

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