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In "The Vampire of the Village" by G. K. Chesterton, Dr. Mulborough was talking to Father Brown about a Great Scandal in their village, while they were going to a village by a train, saying:

‘Oh, even our scandal is on old-established melodramatic lines. Need I say that the clergyman’s son promises to be our problem? It would be almost irregular, if the clergyman’s son were quite regular. So far as I can see, he is very mildly and almost feebly irregular. He was first seen drinking ale outside the Blue Lion. Only it seems he is a poet, which in those parts is next door to being a poacher.’

I can't get what's meant by "It would be almost irregular, if the clergyman’s son were quite regular".

Does it mean that "what he done would be almost strange and shocking if he was a straight man"?

And how the author used "were" with "a single person"?

And is"the Blue Lion" a pub, or something like that?

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I can't get what's meant by "It would be almost irregular, if the clergyman’s son were quite regular".

It's pretty close to what you think. They're saying this would be abnormal behavior in general for the sober individual that you might expect of the son of clergy, but it's normal for him. So he is abnormal, but that's normal behavior for him.

And how the author used "were" with "a single person"?

This is an example of past subjunctive, i.e. that it's a hypothetical or desired state rather than a factual one.

And is"the Blue Lion" a pub, or something like that?

Most likely based on context and the number of pubs and inns with that name (due possibly to an association with heraldry).

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  • So what's the relationship between poet and poacher? – Ahmed Samir Jul 13 at 12:28
  • @AhmedSamir: A poacher is someone who steals animals from someone's land by hunting them. Today, we usually think of that in terms of elephants and rhinos, but it used to be common for lower-class people to hunt for rabbits and deer in the wooded areas owned by the rich. It's indicated that the son is a "poet", with the implication that he adds nothing to society, which is only a step up from a poacher, who is stealing from society (remember that this is an older story). – Sean Duggan Jul 13 at 12:34
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    Oh! I wouldn't have get this meaning even if after 100 years of search. Thank you so much, Sean. – Ahmed Samir Jul 13 at 12:37
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    No worries. There are a lot of subtleties of language that native speakers take for granted and as I've said before, I love Chesterton, so I'm happy to talk about it. :) – Sean Duggan Jul 13 at 12:37
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A clergyman's son was often expected to a little wild, in revolt against a strict upbringing. Therefore a perfectly regular clergyman's son would be irregular -- that is, not what was expected.

The "were" is used because it's in the subjunctive mode, expressing a hypothetical condition.

The Blue Lion is a pub.

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