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I fly to my book as the opium-smoker to his pipe. I would sooner read the catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores than nothing at all. At one time I never went out without a secondhand bookseller's list in my pocket. I know no reading more fruity. Of course to read in this way is as reprehensive as doping, and I never cease to wonder at the impertience of great readers who, becouse they are such, look down on the illiterate. From the standpoint of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows?


Hello, MrP.

How do you interpret 'from the standpoint of what eternity' here?
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Hi Taka,

I know this addressed to Mr. P, so I won't answer it, but it seems to me that it may be missing an "is".

"From the standpoint of what eternity is, is it better ..."

OR "From the standpoint of eternity, is it better ..."
Yes, there should be 'is' there grammatically. I think you are right.

But what does 'Form the standpoint of (what) eternity (is)' anyway??
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I fly to my book as the opium-smoker to his pipe. I would sooner read the catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores than nothing at all. At one time I never went out without a secondhand bookseller's list in my pocket. I know no reading more fruity. Of course to read in this way is as reprehensive as doping, and I never cease to wonder at the impertience of great readers who, becouse they are such, look down on the illiterate. From the standpoint of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows?

Hi Taka,

I know you just want the one sentence, but it might make it easier for others readers if I do the whole thing:

This man is a great reader; he would rather read a cornflake packet, or as he says "the catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores than nothing at all." (that's a shopping catalogue.)

"to read in this way is as reprehensive as doping", - he compares his reading habit to that of a drug addict.

"I never cease to wonder at the impertience of great readers who, becouse they are such, look down on the illiterate." Just because people read a lot, it doesn't make them any better than people who never pick up a book., or who can't even read.

From the standpoint of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows?

If we look at all eternity, from the beginning to the end of time, who would have made the greatest contribution? People who read books, or farmers and other manual workers? Emotion: smile
Hi Guys,
I hope you don't mind me butting in a little, although Mr. P hasn't even had a chance to answer yet.

I just want to comment on the earlier thought that an extra 'is' may be required. I think not.

The original quote is
"From the standpoint of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows?"

I think the writer is envisaging many possible eternities, and can imagine none in which it could be better to have 'read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows'.
He's rhetorically asking 'in what eternity would reading be better?'

For myself, I'd rather read than plough.
Although sometimes I plough through a book that I don't enjoy!
Clive
I never cease to wonder at the impertinence of great readers who, because they are such, look down on the illiterate. From the standpoint of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows?

Hello Taka

I would read the final sentence as a slightly sarcastic rhetorical question.

Let X = people who have read a 1000 books ('great readers')
Let Y = people who have ploughed a 1000000 furrows ('great ploughmen')

Then:

'Some X despise Y. But if we look at matters in the context of eternity, how can X be better than Y? Or are we to suppose that there is another kind of eternity, in the context of which X is better than Y? Of course not! There is only one eternity!'

(The last part is the unspoken answer to the rhetorical question.)

So 'what' here = 'which'.

I would myself say that Maugham's argument rests on the assumption that it is ridiculous to say either 'X is better than Y' or 'Y is better than X', in the context of eternity.

MrP
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PS:

Haven't seen you here for a while, Clive – please do 'butt'.

Plenty of ambiguity to go round.

MrP
Clive - have re-read using your interpretation, and yes, it works. Emotion: smile
Clieve.

You seem to treat 'eternity' and 'eternities' as almost the same. But my dictionary says 'eternity', the singular, means infinite time, whereas 'eternities', the plural, means the absolute truth. Why did you treat them as the same?

abbie1948.

You say 'from the beginning to the end of time', but my dictionary says it's 'time without beginning or end'...I don't know which is correct... Or, is it philosophically the same??

MrP.

When you say 'in the context of eternity', do you mean 'in the long run' or something?
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