Modest man that he was,

“Modest man that he was, his one desire was to do what was right, and to avoid any publicity.”
The above sentence is from BARCHESTER TOWERS by Anthony Trollope–retold by Clare West.
I suppose that “Modest man that he was” can be rephrased as “As he was a modest man.” I wonder if the original expression is commonly used now.

In the sentence quoted above, “he” signifies Mr Harding who used to be warden of a home for elderly men in Barchester, called Hiram’s Hospital.

Modest man that you appear to me, you might not want me to praise your power of deduction: as he was a modest man is perfect.

Here in the UK the original expression is used as an expression of slight self mockery: modest as I am, it pains me to say that I gave a brilliant answer…

Thank you, SanneT,
Modest man that I am, I have to admit that it took a few minutes for me to understand your brilliant comment. (Is this sentence all right?)

Yes, spot on (although my comment wasn’t really that brilliant)!

I guess that this term " Modest man that he was " refers more to the poetic and expressive style of its author.Maybe that the author would like to emphazise more the quality of “modesty” than talking about the "man " himself.

Thank you, Sarah2010.
Am I right in thinking that if you begin a sentence with “modest,” you are putting emphasis on the quality itself that is signified by the adjective?

You will hear the phraseology used with other words too.

Helpful woman that I am, I am giving you these various examples:

“Silly child that she is, she left her coat at the playground.”

“Loyal dog that he was, he was glad to see me even when I came home grumpy.”

Usually I think I would use it when telling someone a little story about an interaction I might have had with someone that day. It is a flowery way to talk, so it can be a nice way to embellish your conversation and make it a little more interesting.

Thank you, KnowItSome.
I like your three examples.

Inquisitive member that I am, not to say nosey, I can’t help but read as many comments as I have time for.

Thank you for your example sentence, SanneT.
Good night.