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?

1 Answer 1


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

  • so it's like "how can a man resist marrying"?
    – whitecap
    Sep 17, 2015 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, 2015 at 1:30

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