Hi

Actually, for Mr Freeman, time had run backward, fifty eight or nine year, and he was again what they had called
him even then – the child being father to the man– ‘a little jug with big ears’; and he had learned that a child, by
staying very still and looking sleepy, could often hear fascinating things.

1. I suppose it says that it was either 1958 or 1959. It's not that he went backwards 58 or 59 nine years?

2. Does it mean he was a child and at the same time he was a father for himself?

EDIT:

"they had called him even then" refers to "the child being father to the man" or "a little jug with big ears"? It's a strangely constructed sentence for me and I'm not sure?
1. I suppose it says that it was either 1958 or 1959. It's not that he went backwards 58 or 59 nine years?-- There seems to be a typographical error; it is not grammatical.

2. Does it mean he was a child and at the same time he was a father for himself?-- I don't think so, but I don't know the story. 'The child is father to the man' is a famous quote from a Wordsworth poem:

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The Child is father of the Man;

I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.
Ok. In the first example it should be "years".

I'm just wondering now if the part "they had called him even then" refers to "the child being father to the man" or "a little jug with big ears"? Or maybe to both? I understand both phrases but somehow I don't get the general meaning of it.
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NewguestI'm just wondering now if the part "they had called him even then" refers to "the child being father to the man" or "a little jug with big ears"? Or maybe to both?
Note the dashes to set off the part about the child and father. What they called him was "a little jug with big ears"; they did not call him "the child being father to the man".

CJ
It is posted here out of context, but I believe this passage is very colorfully stating that Mr. Freeman has reverted to his childhood habit of eavesdropping.

1. It is actually saying that he has gone back to his ways/habits from 58 or 59 years ago (he is probably in his 60s in the story).

2. As in the poem, it means that the child spawns the man that the child becomes. In other words, we retain many of the personality traits that we developed when we were children.

'A little jug with big ears' refers to the fact that children hear and understand a lot of things that adults state in front of them (without the adult realizing that the child understands what is being said). If Mr. Freeman is balding with age, it may also serve as a sarcastic comment about his appearance.

I hope that was not too much information.
But don't you think that the phrase "the child being father to the man" is misplaced? Shouldn't it be somewhere else in that sentence?
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NewguestShouldn't it be somewhere else in that sentence?
No. It's just literary style.

CJ