Joan, an orphan, he says, servant in a gentleman's house where he used to visit; no people of her own, no marriage portion; he pitied her. A whisper in a panelled room raises spirits from the fens, fetches the dead: Cambridge twilights, damp seeping from the marshes and rush lights burning in a bare swept room where an act of love takes place. I could not help but marry her, Dr Cranmer says, and indeed, how can a man help marrying? His college took away his fellowship, of course, you cannot have married fellows.

— Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I just can't figure this sentence out. Could you paraphrase this?


He means that the state of marriage is irresistible to men, that they are drawn to it and cannot help (but) seek marriage.

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  • so it's like "how can a man resist marrying"? – whitecap Sep 17 '15 at 1:27
  • Yes, that's it. . . "How can he help but marry," but said a little differently. Not "help marrying" as in "give assistance." – vstrong Sep 17 '15 at 1:30

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