Passage is adapted from a novel set in the early twentieth century

The following passage is adapted from a novel set in
the early twentieth century. Mr. Beebe, a clergyman, is
speaking with Cecil Vyse about a mutual acquaintance,
Lucy Honeychurch. Miss Honeychurch has recently
returned from a journey with her older cousin and
chaperone, Miss Bartlett.

“Lucy Honeychurch has no faults,” said Cecil,
with grave sincerity.
“I quite agree. At present she has none.”
“At present?”
“I’m not cynical. I’m only thinking of my pet theory
about Miss Honeychurch. Does it seem reasonable that
she should play piano so wonderfully, and live so quietly?
I suspect that someday she shall be wonderful in both.
The water-tight compartments in her will break down,
and music and life will mingle. Then we shall have her
heroically good, heroically bad—too heroic, perhaps,
to be good or bad.”

Cecil found his companion interesting.
“And at present you think her not wonderful as far
as life goes?”
“Well, I must say I’ve only seen her at Tunbridge
Wells, where she was not wonderful, and at Florence.
She wasn’t wonderful in Florence either, but I kept
on expecting that she would be.”
“In what way?”
Conversation had become agreeable to them, and
they were pacing up and down the terrace.
“I could as easily tell you what tune she’ll play next.
There was simply the sense that she found wings and
meant to use them. I can show you a beautiful picture
in my diary. Miss Honeychurch as a kite, Miss Bartlett
holding the string. Picture number two: the string breaks.”
The sketch was in his diary, but it had been made afterwards,
when he viewed things artistically. At the time he
had given surreptitious tugs to the string himself.

“But the string never broke?”
“No. I mightn’t have seen Miss Honeychurch rise,
but I should certainly have heard Miss Bartlett fall.”
“It has broken now,” said the young man in low,
vibrating tones.
Immediately he realized that of all the conceited,
ludicrous, contemptible ways of announcing an engagement
this was the worst. He cursed his love of metaphor;
had he suggested that he was a star and that Lucy was
soaring up to reach him?
“Broken? What do you mean?”
“I meant,” Cecil said stiffly, “that she is going
to marry me.”
The clergyman was conscious of some bitter
disappointment which he could not keep out of his
“I am sorry; I must apologize. I had no idea you
were intimate with her, or I should never have talked
in this flippant, superficial way. You ought to have
stopped me.” And down in the garden he saw Lucy
herself; yes, he was disappointed.
Cecil, who naturally preferred congratulations
to apologies, drew down the corner of his mouth. Was
this the reaction his action would get from the whole
Of course, he despised the world as a whole;
every thoughtful man should; it is almost a test of

“I’m sorry I have given you a shock,” he said
dryly. “I fear that Lucy’s choice does not meet with
your approval.”

Could you please kindly explain the bold portions of this passage for me? I don’t have any idea about every one of them?

What sketch is this? And what does “afterwards” mean? After when does he begin to view things artistically and “make” that sketch? Does he draw the sketch himself? Of the two pictures he present, which is photograph or which does he draw? What does “surreptitous tugs” mean? Everything is on photo/paper, why can the man tug the kite?

Thanks in advance.

Here, the words ‘picture’ and ‘sketch’ refer to the same thing. The picture is the sketch he has made in his diary. When he says he made the sketch afterwards, he’s saying that he did not draw the sketch as it happened, but rather did it from memory at a later date. Rather than trying to capture the scene literally, verbatim as it happened, allowed himself to view the scene through the lens of artistic expression. In other words, he perhaps changed some details to make the picture as he wanted it to be, rather than how it actually appeared.

Here, when he talks about the strings, he doesn’t mean the literal strings in the picture. He’s using the word ‘strings’ as a metaphor. Keep in mind that Miss Bartlett is the chaperone of Miss Honeychurch. A chaperone is somebody who is responsible for watching over and keeping somebody out of trouble. Thus, if he refers to Miss Honeychurch as a kite, struggling to fly free. Miss Bartlett, as the chaperone, is the person who is keeping her from flying free.

Surreptitiously means ‘secretly’, or to do something without being seen. So when he secretly tugs on the strings, he’s trying to tug (pull) on the strings hard enough that they will break, and the kite (Miss Honeychurch) will be able to fly free.

In other words, he’s secretly hoping that Miss Honeychurch will be able to escape her chaperone. One of the roles of a chaperone is to supervise a young unmarried woman in the presence of men. I think that Mr. Beebe is romantically interested in Miss Honeychurch, and would like to talk to her without a chaperone present. :lol:

Notice some of the other things he has said and done. He says “Miss Honeychurch has no faults.” He is drawing pictures of her in his diary. He says many other flattering things about her, and is in fact, enamored of her.

Are you asking about the other bold portions of the text, as well, or just that paragraph?

Thank you very much Skrej. Now the “The sketch … himself” paragraph becomes very clear to me!

Yes, I am asking your help about the other bold portions of the text, too. I’m just BLANK about the other bold portions, so I cannot ask anything specific as I do to the “The sketch…himself” paragraph. Could you please help me with them?

No, Mr Beebe doesn’t say that. It’s Mr Cecil Vyse.

Thank you very much for your help.

You’re correct, he doesn’t actually say that she has no faults, but he does agree with Cecil, when Cecil says this.

One meaning of heroic is ‘extreme or drastic’. So he’s saying that then she’ll be extremely good, or extremely bad, or perhaps she’ll become too extreme to classify as either good or bad.

Earlier he mentions that he thinks that the fact that she plays piano so wonderfully, but lives such a quite life are at odds. He states that maybe someday this compartments which keep her music and her life separate will break, and she’ll be musical and lively. And when this happens, she’ll become extremely good, or extremely bad (naughty) or perhaps so extremely lively and musical that it’s impossible to classify her as good or bad.

This is just another way of saying ‘frown’. When you frown, the corners of your mouth draw down. ‘Draw’ can also mean ‘to cause to move in a certain direction’.

When he says ‘the whole world’, he means everybody in the world. He’s asking if everybody in the word is going to disapprove of his actions (asking Lucy to marry him).

This is just another way of saying he despises (looks down on, or thinks of with contempt) the entire world. World here again means all the people in the world. His thinking is that any refined (a sophisticated or upper-class intelligent) man would and should despise the rest of the world. If you don’t, then you don’t pass this test of refinement.

Lucy’s choice was to accept Cecil’s offer of engagement. So when Cecil sees Mr. Beebe’s reaction (and hears the disappointment in his voice) when Mr. Beebe hears that she’s to marry Cecil, Cecil is commenting (in a kind of joking manner) that he (Cecil) is afraid (concerned) that Lucy’s choice to marry him doesn’t meet with Mr. Beebe’s approval. The joke here, is of course, that naturally Mr. Beebe doesn’t approve, because he likes Lucy himself.

The messages here are from 2 months ago, but I am reading the novel now and came across this page, and I just couldn’t resist saying that I really do NOT think that Mr. Beebe is in love with Lucy. There are several passages in the book that hint Mr. Beebe is a confirmed celibate. He is not romantically interested in her; he merely admires her. He would like to see her free from Charlotte not because he wants to be alone with her, but because he thinks that her spirit is capable of reaching great heights if she is not tied down by dreary Edwardian convention.

AND, he does not approve of the choice of Cecil because he thinks Cecil is wrong for Lucy, not because he himself wants to marry her. He is a clergyman and will not marry.