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A small crowd meanwhile had gathered at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Listlessly, yet confidently, poor people all of them, they waited; looked at the Palace itself with the flag flying; at Victoria, billowing on her mound, admired her shelves of running water, her geraniums; ...

(source)

Who admired her shelves of running water?

  • Victoria admired her own shelves of running water, or
  • the crowd admired her shelves of running water?

Thanks a lot.

  • thanks Lawrence, could you please paraphrase it for me? – Mani Feb 28 '16 at 9:38
  • Please edit your question to indicate which part you're having trouble with, and what you find confusing about it. – Lawrence Feb 28 '16 at 9:42
  • I mean who admired her shelves of running water? Victoria admired her own shelves of running water or the crowd admired her shelves of running water? thanks – Mani Feb 28 '16 at 9:46
  • I can see where the confusion might arise. The punctuation is not particularly good. Do you have a link to the original? – Lawrence Feb 28 '16 at 9:50
  • here you can find it; books.google.com/… – Mani Feb 28 '16 at 9:51
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The context looks like a stream of consciousness, so it doesn't necessarily follow normal rules of grammar or even punctuation, but the form and punctuation that is present gives us a clue. Let's look at the structure of the sentence:

Listlessly, yet confidently, poor people all of them, they waited;

  • looked at the Palace itself with the flag flying;
  • at Victoria, billowing on her mound, admired her shelves of running water, her geraniums; ...

You ask who did the admiring - Victoria or the people.

If it was Victoria, then because at Victoria indicates that she is an object rather than a subject in the structure, admired would need to be in the -ing form like the previous verb, billowing. It's therefore the people who were doing the admiring.

Adding the subject and other relevant words to the bullet-point phrases, we get:

  • they looked ...
  • they looked at Victoria, billowing on her mound, and admired her shelves ...
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This passage is from Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, which describes the events of a single day in 1923 through the actions and thoughts of numerous characters. The narrator shifts from observer to omniscient observer to characters' interior monologue, often within the same passage, as in the one you quoted. Notice that we're told that the crowd gathers, which is just descriptive, but we're also told what they admire, so we know what they're thinking. This kind of story told through stream of consciousness is more difficult to follow than straight narration, and it strains the rules of punctuation.

If you read further into the paragraph, you'll find that the crowd of poor people gathered, waited, looked at, admired, singled out, bestowed, and let. The paragraph ends however, not with what the crowd is doing or thinking but with the actions of the royal family about whom the crowd is considering.

It might help to know that "Victoria, billowing on her mound" is the Queen Victoria Memorial, across from Buckingham Palace.

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