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“His son, you see, had grown up, and so had my girl, and as I was known to be in weak health, it seemed a fine stroke to him that his lad should step into the whole property.”

Sherlock Holmes Illustrated and Complete
Doyle, Arthur Conan

Context: “He” wanted his son to marry the speaker’s daughter so that the son could have a share of the speaker’s property.

Hi. How should I understand the bold “should” here? I only know it’s old-fashioned.

Thank you.
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If you ask a dozen different people you will probably get a dozen different answers, plus some blank expressions and/or head-scratching! I propose that it is this sense at https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/should?q=should_1 :

used after "that" and adjectives or nouns that show an opinion or feeling:
It's odd that she should think I would want to see her again.
It's so unfair that she should have died so young.

zuotengdazuoI only know it’s old-fashioned.

It doesn't sound old-fashioned to me (BrE).

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zuotengdazuoHow should I understand the bold “should” here?

Palmer calls it "evaluative should". It's equivalent to the use of the present subjunctive in many of the languages heard on the European continent. I believe I've seen language guidebooks label this English version "the periphrastic subjunctive" and say that it's used when the speaker expresses some emotional feeling or reaction to a given proposition. Thus, "it seemed a fine stroke to him" is the evaluation of the proposition that his lad step into the whole property. Sometimes "should" may be omitted without changing the meaning significantly.

In the following examples, I've underlined "the evaluation".

The candidate had lost a lot of support, so it was better that he should leave.
It's odd that he should abandon the worksite without turning off the machinery.
It is horrifying that he should die because his caretaker deliberately starved him.

CJ

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CalifJim
zuotengdazuoHow should I understand the bold “should” here?

Palmer calls it "evaluative should".

CJ

Thank you, GPY and CJ.

So are evaluative should and putative should the same thing?

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By the way, is “a fine stroke” equivalent to “a stroke of luck”?

zuotengdazuo

By the way, is “a fine stroke” equivalent to “a stroke of luck”?

That's how I understand it, yes. In fact I am not familiar with the expression "a fine stroke" -- it may be old-fashioned -- but I just assume it means "a fine stroke of luck / good fortune".

Thank you again, GPY.

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So is it also correct to say “it seemed lucky to him that his lad should step into the whole property.”?

zuotengdazuo

So is it also correct to say “it seemed lucky to him that his lad should step into the whole property.”?

Grammatically, yes. It slightly changes the feel of the statement.

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