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  1. #1

    Much good may it do

    This question is one of the last ones I have concerning the language of Joseph Conrad:

    At first, the phrase seemed quite straightforward, maybe because I read it as being sarcastic, or ironic, but then I started to wonder. Why would the speaker be sarcastic?

    "The Other was the Man of St. Helena. The two officers nodded and touched
    glasses before they drank to an impossible return. Then the same who
    had spoken before, remarked with a sardonic laugh, "His adversary showed
    more cleverness."

    "What adversary?" asked the younger, as if puzzled.

    "Don't you know? They were two hussars. At each promotion they fought a
    duel. Haven't you heard of the duel going on ever since 1801?"

    The other had heard of the duel, of course. Now he understood the
    allusion. General Baron D'Hubert would be able now to enjoy his fat
    king's favour in peace.

    "Much good may it do to him," mumbled the elder. "They were both brave

    What is making me confused? Is it the word order (may it vs. it may)? Or am I just reading to much into it?

    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,434

    Re: Much good may it do

    It is an idiomatic phrase which is quite commonly used, usually sarcastic in tone.

    I think the implication is that the officers rather despise the General for continuing the vendetta over so many years, and for his attachment to Louis XVI (they are clearly secretly supporters of Napoleon). They are hoping that he will not benefit from this attachment.

  2. #3

    Re: Much good may it do

    I see what you mean.

    I was probably confused because I thought that the phrase in question was used primarily when the speaker knows something that (in this case) General D'Hubert doesn't, i.e. "That won't do him much good, because ..."

    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,434

    Re: Much good may it do

    It's nearer to being a curse on the person - ill-wishing them.

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