Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #210 (Part 2): Intermediate and Advanced English Vocabulary (through Gaskell’s ‘North and South’)

Here we continue the story of Margaret Hale on her return to her parents’ country home in Helstone (a fictional village, probably based in Hampshire, England).


And walk Margaret did, in spite of the weather. She was so happy out of doors, at her father’s side, that she almost danced; and with the soft violence of the west wind behind her, as she crossed some heath, she seemed to be borne onwards, as lightly and easily as the fallen leaf that was wafted along by the autumnal breeze. But the evenings were rather difficult to fill up agreeably. Immediately after tea her father withdrew into his small library, and she and her mother were left alone. Mrs. Hale had never cared much for books, and had discouraged her husband, very early in their married life, in his desire of reading aloud to her, while she worked. At one time they had tried backgammon as a resource; but as Mr. Hale grew to take an increasing interest in his school and his parishioners, he found that the interruptions which arose out of these duties were regarded as hardships by his wife, not to be accepted as the natural conditions of his profession, but to be regretted and struggled against by her as they severally arose. So he withdrew, while the children were yet young, into his library, to spend his evenings (if he were at home), in reading the speculative and metaphysical books which were his delight.

When Margaret had been here before, she had brought down with her a great box of books, recommended by masters or governess, and had found the summer’s day all too short to get through the reading she had to do before her return to town. Now there were only the well-bound, little-read English Classics, which were weeded out of her father’s library to fill up the small book-shelves in the drawing-room. Thomson’s Season’s, Hayley’s Cowper, Middleton’s Cicero, were by far the lightest, newest, and most amusing. The book-shelves did not afford much resource. Margaret told her mother every particular of her London life, to all of which Mrs. Hale listened with interest, sometimes amused and questioning, at others a little inclined to compare her sister’s circumstances of ease and comfort with the narrower means at Helstone Vicarage. On such evenings Margaret was apt to stop talking rather abruptly, and listen to the drip-drip of the rain upon the leads of the little bow window.



And walk Margaret did: Note – this might seem like an unusual word order, and it is. However, in the previous sentence (which I have not quoted here), Margaret told her mother strongly that no matter what happened, she [Margaret] was determined to walk everywhere and not drive around in a carriage.

Whenever we want to say that someone defiantly (courageously, rebelliously, strongly) did something like that, we often state it in this word order, ‘And walk Margaret did’ – ending with ‘did’ and placing the verb form (‘walk’ or its equivalent) before the subject. This is the word order that most English speakers feel comfortable using.

However, it could also have been written as: ‘And Margaret did walk’, which would sound emphatic too. In summary, inserting ‘did’ in these sentences adds strength to the statements.

P.S. Here is a very good example of this principle, as found in Charles Dickens’ ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’: ‘And he sang songs, did Fips; and made speeches, did Fips; and knocked off his wine pretty handsomely, did Fips; and, in short, he showed himself a perfect trump, did Fips, in all respects.’

violence: force; sometimes aggressive and cruel (but not in this particular context)

heath: open, grassy, boggy land, often with heather and gorse (quite common in parts of northern England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland)

borne: (past participle of ‘to bear’) carried; endured

wafted < to waft: to float along (usually describing a sound or smell)

autumnal: like autumn; seasonal to autumn

breeze: a light, fresh, pleasant wind

to fill up: to occupy; to find something nice to do (and fill up the empty time)

agreeably: in a pleasant or satisfactory way

while she worked: while she did needlework or sewing work

backgammon: a board game for two players

parishioner: a member of the parish (a community area with a single church)

arose < to arise: appeared; came to be; happened; was realised

hardship: difficult, challenging, or painful experience

as they severally arose: as they each arose; as they each arrived or happened

withdrew < to withdraw: to move away from (something)

speculative: something that involves wondering and guessing rather than giving complete facts (in this case, probably theological or philosophical)

metaphysical: relating to metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that deals with questions about being, identity, time, knowing, etc.

masters: (old-fashioned) male tutors

governess: (old-fashioned) live-in female tutors for children or teachers in the homes of wealthy families

all too short: too short, in a regrettable way

town: in this context, London

well-bound: having a nice book spine; well-made (describing books)

weeded < weed: search out from among many other items

lightest [reading]: easy, entertaining reading

amusing: entertaining; interesting in a pleasant way

[they] did not afford much resource: they did not provide much resource, information, or satisfaction

particular [noun]: a particular detail

amused and questioning: see Lesson #208 for the important difference between adjectives ending with -ed and with -ing

inclined: likely; leaning towards (doing or wanting something)

the narrower means: here this means the poorer, less economic style of living

Vicarage: the home of a vicar, a kind of church minister (especially in the Church of England, as is the case here)

apt: likely; inclined; in the habit of (doing something)

abruptly: in a short, sudden and unexpected way, sometimes rudely

lead: (in this context) the parts of the window made from lead (a type of metal)

bow window: a curved window that protrudes (sticks outward) from the walls surrounding it (you can find a photo of one here)

I trust that today’s reading was both enjoyable and manageable!

🧐 Did you find many new words?

😉 Did you find words here that you already knew?

North and South is such a great novel that we must return to it again in another (few!) Lessons hopefully.

For now, if there is any particular classic book that you would like to read for yourself (in part or as a whole), why not send me a message via the contact form on the Home Page and I can either offer you supportive lessons or some advice on how to read it to the best advantage on your own.

by J. E. Gibbons

English language tutor and researcher at 'Learn English Through Literature' (2024)