The following quotation is from Anthony Trollope's The Small House at Allington:

We have retricked our beams in our own ways, and our lives have not been desolate. But for her you and her mother will look forward to see her married some day.

The unexpected occurrence of the words in bold puzzles me. I have been made aware that it should have been look forward to seeing but it seems that sometimes things are not all as we would have wished them to have been.

I wonder: why did the author choose it?

  • Possibilities: Grammar has changed since 1864 and/or it's a BrE construction. Also, see someone married may be something like a stock or idiomatic phrase, or at least one that allows for the construction Trollope uses. I'll try to find more info later. Meanwhile, what the heck does 'retricked our beams' mean? ;) – user20792 Dec 5 '15 at 15:31
  • @NES, it means to recover mentally or physically from a setback. – Lucian Sava Dec 5 '15 at 15:35
  • @NES It's an allusion to Milton's "Lycidas": For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead, Sunk though he be beneath the wat'ry floor; So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed, And yet anon repairs his drooping head, And tricks his beams, and with new spangled ore Flames in the forehead of the morning sky: So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high Through the dear might of him that walk'd the waves. 'Trick' has the sense "dress, adorn, prepare", and 'beams' are beams of light from the star. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 5 '15 at 16:31

I'll give you a couple of answers, either of which may (or may not) be in play:

  1. It's a slightly different idiom. . . . Trollope himself uses look forward to VERBing twice in The Small House at Allington; but it was only during his lifetime that look forward to X came to have the usual modern meaning of "anticipate with pleasure" and came to be used primarily with gerunds. In the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century it had the somewhat broader sense "expect", and was used almost entirely with nouns. There are uses with gerunds, but there are also three or four instances in Google Books of "look forward to VERB*, with the infinitive—exactly what you would expect with an idiom meaning expect:

    These [opportunities for employment ...] will, it is evident, draw yearly to the Universities a much larger number of students than can, with any reasonable hope, look forward to be benefited by them.

    Under this explanation, the Earl may be understood to mean that "You and your mother will expect to see her married one day."

  2. Perhaps more likely, it's a slip of the pen. . . . Trollope's novels and stories moved from manuscript to serial publication to book publication with very little (if any) editorial intervention, and it is only within the last thirty or forty years that careful scholarly editions have been published. Trollope himself certainly did not rewiew his works in proof; he was far too busy. At the time he wrote The Small House he was holding down a senior administrative position in the Post Office and producing more than a novel per year (as well as short stories, articles and essays) only by adhering to a rigorous schedule.

    It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5.30 A.M.; and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy. An old groom, whose business it was to call me, and to whom I paid £5 a year extra for the duty, allowed himself no mercy. During all those years at Waltham Cross he was never once late with the coffee which it was his duty to bring me. I do not know that I ought not to feel that I owe more to him than to any one else for the success I have had. By beginning at that hour I could complete my literary work before I dressed for breakfast.

    All those I think who have lived as literary men,—working daily as literary labourers,—will agree with me that three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write. But then he should so have trained himself that he shall be able to work continuously during those three hours,—so have tutored his mind that it shall not be necessary for him to sit nibbling his pen, and gazing at the wall before him, till he shall have found the words with which he wants to express his ideas. It had at this time become my custom,—and it still is my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient to myself,—to write with my watch before me, and to require from myself 250 words every quarter of an hour. I have found that the 250 words have been forthcoming as regularly as my watch went. But my three hours were not devoted entirely to writing. I always began my task by reading the work of the day before, an operation which would take me half an hour, and which consisted chiefly in weighing with my ear the sound of the words and phrases.

    That's prodigiously fast writing. It's a wonder any of it is even intelligible.

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.