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Of course it was much easier for Frenchmen to do these things; the language was such an aid; Philip could never help feeling that to say passionate things in English sounded a little absurd. He wished now that he had never undertaken the siege of Miss Wilkinson's virtue; the first fortnight had been so jolly, and now he was wretched; but he was determined not to give in, he would never respect himself again if he did, and he made up his mind irrevocably that the next night he would kiss her without fail.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Can you paraphrase the bold sentence for me?

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    At least a guess to show an own attempt, please?
    – Stephie
    Nov 5, 2015 at 8:52
  • Seriously I don't get it except that he regrets whatever he had done with Miss Wilkinson.
    – whitecap
    Nov 5, 2015 at 9:12
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    He wanted to have an affair with Miss Wilkinson. According to the societal customs of that age, a virtuous woman should have rebuffed a man's initial attemps at establishing physical intimacy. He undertook the siege of this "virtue" by expressing his affection to Miss Wilkinson through the meager means provided by the English language (that is, meager compared to those afforded by French). Nov 5, 2015 at 9:19
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    @CopperKettle Thank you. I've got it. I misunderstood the meaning of 'to undertake the siege of something' in the first place. Why don't you write an answer for this question so that I can wrap up this question with a bow?
    – whitecap
    Nov 5, 2015 at 18:43
  • Okay, I've posted my comment as an answer! (0: "Of Human Bondage" is a nice book with a good ending. I also like The Painted Veil and The Moon and Sixpence. Nov 5, 2015 at 19:00

1 Answer 1

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He wanted to have an affair with Miss Wilkinson. According to the societal customs of that age, a virtuous woman should have rebuffed a man's initial attemps at establishing physical intimacy. He undertook the siege of this "virtue" by expressing his affection to Miss Wilkinson through the meager means provided by the English language (that is, meager compared with those afforded by French).

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  • compared to sounded fine ;)
    – user20792
    Nov 5, 2015 at 19:29
  • @User1 - thanks! I suddenly recalled reading on "to vs with". I'm also unsure about "undertook the siege" vs. "undertook a siege". (0: Nov 5, 2015 at 20:07

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