Saturday 22 April 2017

Dr Brookner Regrets

regret > verb (regretted, regretting) [with obj.] feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity): she immediately regretted her words ¦ [with clause] I always regretted that I never trained. 
archaic: feel sorrow for the loss or absence of (something pleasant): my home, when shall I cease to regret you!
The New Oxford Dictionary of English, 1998

I've now and then noticed this about Brookner: her odd use of the verb to regret. I find it in Chapter 1 of A Friend from England (1987):
...Oscar sometimes regretted his little office and his box files...
or this similar line from Chapter 3 of Strangers (2009):
He regretted ... the structure of the working day.
As you might imagine, I'm all in favour of Brooknerese, but this is perhaps a step too far, especially as Brookner often and more frequently uses the more common meaning of regret. There are twenty-nine uses of the word in Strangers, of which (by my reckoning, although I could be wrong, as the exercise left my head spinning) only two relate to the archaic meaning.

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