what is the meaning of this sentence below?
A LAWYER in whom an instinct of justice had survived the wreck of his ignorance of law was retained for the defence of a burglar whom the police had taken after a desperate struggle with someone not in custody.
i suppose it means that there were some police that struggled with someone in order to arrest them or that the burglar struggled with someone before the police apprehended the burglar. and then there's a laywer, who was retained in order to defend this burglar. and this lawyer was ignorant of the law, so he is a bad lawyer, yet his instinct for justice somehow allows him to continue practicing law even though he is really bad at it. so perhaps the lawyer loves law but is simply not good at practicing it.
that sentence, by the way, is one of the most horribly structured examples of the english language that i have ever read. where did you find such bad writing?
I second. Horribly confusing sentence! It should be split into more than one sentence to clarify.
The least that must be done to that sentence is a little bit of decent punctuation.
"A lawyer, in whom an instinct of justice had survived the wreck of his ignorance of law, was retained for the defence of a burglar, whom the police had taken after a desperate struggle with someone not in custody."
So the sentence can be boiled down thus.
"A lawyer was retained for the defence of a burglar. An instinct of justice in this lawyer had survived the wreck of his ignorance of law. The police had taken the burglar after a desperate struggle with someone not in custody."
Still ugly and confusing though, isn't it? How about this?
"A lawyer was retained for the defence of a burglar. Inspite of his ignorance of law this lawyer still had an instinct of justice. The police had struggled with someone else but they didn't take this person into custody (presumably this person escaped). After this struggle they captured the burglar."
If my interpretation is at odds with that of Johnny's I blame the original author.
Dear Johnny, Tiffany and Jim,
Here is a surprise. I found that sentence in a fable! Can you believe it!! If a fable can be like this then who needs Latin!
By the way, I enjoy when native speakers rubish their own language when it desreves so.And now for your amusement let me show you what others have said about this sentence which we are discussing.
"At a guess, someone desperately trying to sound clever and failing utterly because of verbose prolix circumlocution designed to effect obfuscation in the interlocutor."
Now I realise why it took some time before I could switch to normal colloquial English after leaving university. Getting rid of all those snobbish "learned" words was an important part of the process.
By the way, here is my version of the original sentence, as it may appear in a newspaper:
"A lawyer was retained for the defence of a burglar whom the police had captured beforehand. The arrest followed a desperate struggle with another person, who was ultimately not put into custody. The lawyer had proven himself to be utterly ignorant of the law, yet he still retained an instinct of justice."
The second sentence could sound something like this in plain English:
"Someone who tries hard to sound clever and fails, because that long and complicated monster of a sentence is meant to confuse the reader's mind." Now THIS is something I also second. :)
Sorry, "ignorant of law".