In the event that he fell into one of his fits, he didn't want to be buried while he was still alive.
Interested in Language
What does lest mean here? Could you, please, rephrase that part of the sentence?
"In fact, I no longer dared trust myself out of the immediate presence of those who were aware of my proneness to catalepsy, lest, falling into one of my usual fits, I should be buried before my real condition could be ascertained."
"Lest" is rarely heard in AmE. In BrE I think it is almost synonymous with unless. I would be grateful if native speakers of BrE would teach me the difference.
It's probably true that "lest" isn't heard often in AmE, but it would nevertheless be easily understood.
We may strive for perfection, but it is rarely achieved.
Lest is American, but it doesn't mean unless. It expresses caution:
Judge not, lest you yourself be judged.
Or as Bob Dylan put it: ...and keep your judgement to yourself, lest you wind up on this road.
I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.