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19th century usages of lustre?

(6 Posts)

This week I started reading Sybil, or The Two Nations*, originally published in 1845.

As a result, I happened across this archaic (and presumably elevated) usage of lustre, which I have never before encountered, in the following paragraph:

And at this moment entered the room the young nobleman whom we have before mentioned, accompanied by an individual who was approaching perhaps the termination of his fifth lustre but whose general air rather betokened even a less experienced time of life. Tall, with a well-proportioned figure and a graceful carriage, his countenance touched with a sensibility that at once engages the affections. Charles Egremont was not only admired by that sex, whose approval generally secures men enemies among their fellows, but was at the same time the favourite of his own.

Was it a common usage at the time, and what does it mean in this context, precisely? A decade?

*Also available for free as a Kindle edition

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Sun 26-Jul-15 21:33:12

A pedantic pal used it for effect once, but I don't remember seeing it in any C19th fiction.

It sounds deliberately affected even in your paragraph. A Mills and Boon opening.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Sun 26-Jul-15 21:38:24

It's meaning (1) here, "a period of five years"

I seem to remember it refers to Roman rites which would take place every so many years - apparently 5.

Oh yes, here we go:

"The lustration was originally a sacrifice for expiation and purification offered by one of the censors in the name of the Roman people at the close of the taking of the census. The sacrifice was often in the form of an animal sacrifice, known as a suovetaurilia.

These censuses were taken at five-year intervals, thus a lustrum came to refer to the five-year inter-census period.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Sun 26-Jul-15 21:39:47

So "approaching perhaps the termination of his fifth lustre" would be aged nearly 25.

Thank you! I never tried Merrium-Webster, or, indeed, lustER, and I'm not sure I would have.

I can stop fretting about it now and get on with the rest of the book!

MirandaGoshawk Thu 20-Aug-15 22:19:22

I love MN smile

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