I'm reading "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" by Arthur Conan Doyle. I came across this sentence by the character Violet Hunter:

Mrs. Rucastle seemed to me to be colorless in mind as well as in feature. She impressed me neither favorably nor the reverse.

What does this sentence mean? Is she saying both of them did not impress each other?

3 Answers 3


Here "the reverse" is in reference to "favorably"; the implication is:

She impressed me neither favorably nor the reverse [of favorably].

"Impress" is used to mean "to make a vivid impression". Mrs. Rucastle did not impress the speaker favorably (they do not hold a positive impression/opinion of her) or unfavorably. She simply made no impression at all; their opinion is decidedly neutral/nonexistent. This is because she

seemed to [the speaker] to be colorless in mind as well in feature

where "color" is first used metaphorically to mean an interesting personality ("in mind") and then to mean an interesting or striking visual appearance ("in feature").

  • 3
    Writing "the reverse" for "unfavourably" is a case of "elegant" variation. Aug 16, 2021 at 20:54
  • In this case, I believe the usage of "the reverse" here may also be a double entendre (where "the reverse" becomes the subject of "impressed"). Aug 17, 2021 at 9:08

This passage means that Mrs. Rucastle is a rather unremarkable person (colorless in mind and feature) who does not leave much of impression at all, either good or bad. Here, "the reverse" refers to the reverse of favorably. Violet is left with neither a positive nor a negative impression of her.

She impressed me neither favorably nor the reverse [of favorably].

She impressed me neither favorably nor unfavorably.

  • True, yet, with delightful ironically, the narrator remarks on her unremarkableness. I love it. Aug 17, 2021 at 13:20

The above should probably be read with the added context that it is someone named “Violet Hunter” who states that another woman has no “color” or is so “grey” as to leave Violet without any negative or positive “impression” of her at all. Therefore, the “purple hunter,” after meeting with this “colorless” lady, is not impressed by Mrs Rucastle’s looks or intellect one way or the other. Colors play an important part in the story (for example, the red hair and blue dress meant to fool someone who is watching at a distance), so this description of a “colorless” character, by someone whose name is also the name of a color, seems to fit.)

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