I would like to know what "ought to make a good thing out of this" means in the following passage:

His utterance of the name ‘Mr Fadge’ sufficiently intimated that he had some cause of personal discontent with the editor of The Study.

‘The author,’ remarked Milvain, ‘ought to make a good thing out of this.

‘Will, no doubt. Ought to write at once to the papers, calling attention to this sample of critical impartiality. Ha! ha!’

George Gissing (1891), New Grub Street, Chapter 2

Jasper Milvain, the protagonist of this novel, was invited to Yule's house and met the literary critic Alfred Yule. Then Jasper asked him whether he had seen that the literary magazine The Study of this week contained a very pleasant review about a novel named On the Boards which was seriously abused some weeks ago at the very same magazine. At this, Alfred Yule expressed undisguised pleasure at The Study's mistake, and the corresponding misfortune on Mr. Fadge, the editor of The Study. And Jasper commented that the author of On the Boards "ought to make a good thing out of this."

In this part, I would like to know what "ought to" and "make a good thing out of" mean. Does it mean that the author would surely raise an opposition against the two reviews diametrically opposed?

1 Answer 1


"ought to" is used literally, meaning to say that it is used to indicate something that is probable, which in this case is to "make a good thing out of" the pleasant review published in the magazine.

"make a good thing out of" simply refers to the act of using something to one's own benefit. The something here is the aforementioned positive review. Given that there was a negative opinion article earlier, Jasper is expressing the probability that the author of the novel should use the now positive article as an opportunity and make it work for his benefit, to which Yule then adds his own expectation that the author must write to the papers and call attention to the (positive) impartial critic review now published, which is a way of taking a jab on the magazine which had previously published a negative take on the same thing.

  • I thought "ought to" rather means "should" than something that is "probable" here.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 9:17
  • @Randal'Thor It actually means both (source) but in this context this seems to refer to a "probability" rather than to a "duty"
    – CinCout
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 9:19

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