2

I'm translating a novel by John Galsworthy, A Stoic, written at the beginning of the XX century (full text on Project Gutenberg), and I've come across a sentence I’m finding quite tricky to understand:

The crowded street had all that prosperous air of catching or missing something which characterises the town where London and New York and Dublin meet.

The problem here is with “catching or missing something”. Do you think it has anything to do with catching or missing a bus/tram or any other means of transport? Or is it to be understood more generally (e.g. triumphs and failures)?

2
  • Project Gutenberg is a wonderful resource, but I wouldn't rely on it being free of transcription errors. A comma might easily be missed, making it much harder to understand.
    – mikado
    Apr 15 at 15:10
  • 1
    PG's text agrees with the 1918 & 1921 Scribner 's edition. Apr 15 at 17:06
2

I think we are to parse the 'something' as belonging with the 'which characterises' rather than being the something that is caught or missed. I imagine that the same sentence written today would have a break of some sort following 'missing'. eg

The crowded street had all that prosperous air of catching or missing - something which characterises the town where London and New York and Dublin meet.

That still leaves unclear the meaning of 'catching or missing'. Searching on Google books does not produce any contemporary meaning which is distinct from literal catching or missing of objects or modes of transport.

In the absence of any such clues I would tend to your view that it is to be understood more generally in terms of triumphs and failures.

The offices of the The Island Navigation Company are in Liverpool, that town where 'London and New York and Dublin meet' and where fortunes are being made and lost in shipping, in import and export, lives are being changed in ways that pivot around a single moment. That, in combination with the prosperous air makes a reading of triumps and failures of fortune highly plausible.

1

The setting of the story is Liverpool, the town where London and New York and Dublin meet. Galsworthy claims that Liverpool both catches something of those cities, and misses it. The idea is that Liverpool is reminiscent of them in some way, catching something of their atmosphere, but also falls short, missing something. That is to say, Liverpool simultaneously brings to mind more celebrated towns, and somehow seems not to measure up to them. The street being described is typical of Liverpool in that it captures this prosperous air of catching or missing something which characterises the town.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.