1

"Truly, friend; and methinks it must gladden your heart, after your troubles and sojourn in the wilderness," said the townsman, "to find yourself at length in a land where iniquity is searched out and punished in the sight of rulers and people, as here in our godly New England. Yonder woman, Sir, you must know, was the wife of a certain learned man, English by birth, but who had long ago dwelt in Amsterdam, whence, some good time agone, he was minded to cross over and cast in his lot with us of the Massachusetts.
(Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter)

The highlighted part doesn’t make any sense to me. Would you parse the sentence?

5

This is Hawthorne attempting (not very successfully, to my mind) to write in the language of the 17th century, so you have some archaisms:

whence = from which place
some good time agone = a fairly long time ago
he was minded = he took it into his mind, he formed the intention

Cast in his lot however is not an archaism but an old metaphor which is still in use. Cast here is used in the sense of throw, and you will find this in the Oxford Dictionaries under throw in one's lot with:

decide to ally oneself closely with and share the fate of (a person or group):
the bourgeoisie had thrown in its lot with the monarchy

One's lot is originally what one has been allotted by fate or Providence, and by extension a token bearing one's name which is entered into a drawing or lottery. The metaphor thus signifies that one throws one's lot into the same hat with others, that one joins one's fate to theirs.

a certain learned man [residing] in Amsterdam, who decided, a while ago, to cross over from that place and, for better or worse, join the Massachusetts Bay colony.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.