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I have a question about a sentence in this extract:

The London Library was Roland's favourite place. It was shabby but civilised, alive with history but inhabited also by living poets and thinkers who could be found squatting on the slotted metal floors of the stacks, or arguing pleasantly at the turning of the stair. Here Carlyle had come, here George Eliot had progressed through the bookshelves. Roland saw her black silk skirts, her velvet trains, sweeping compressed between the Fathers of the Church, and heard her firm foot ring on metal among the German poets.

Possession A Romance by A. S. Byatt.

  • Does the word sweep in the sentence mean to remove dust, dirt, etc., from (something) with a broom or brush?

  • Does the word compress in the sentence mean to press or squeeze (something) so that it is smaller or fills less space?

I am not very clear about the meaning of sweeping compressed.

  • Also, Does the word ring mean make a sound in the sentence and heard her firm foot ring on metal among the German poets?

I am not very clear about the meaning of ring on metal.

  • 1. sweep also means to glide smoothly along. 2. compressed means squeezed 3. The floors of the stacks are metal. ring means to make a sound by striking metal. Here, by the impact of the heels of her shoes. – deadrat Aug 29 '16 at 13:37
  • @deadrat Thank you very much for your help. I really appreciate it. – Li Xiaodong Aug 29 '16 at 15:32
1

The long velvet train of a dress 'sweeps across' the floor, trailing behind the novelist George Eliot, and Roland imagines she is still a visitor and researcher in the Library. Perhaps writing 'Mill on the Floss.'

George Eliot is compressed because she is only glimpsed between the heavy Patristics books on the shelves.

'Ring' as you guess describes the sound of (leather) shoes on the cast-iron galleries and stairs. between the books

  • I like this answer and think the photograph is really helpful. It makes things so much easier to imagine, but surely it is the skirts and train that are compressed, rather than GE? The image you attached shows how narrow the space is, not narrow enough to squash a woman, but enough to deform the full skirts of the time. – Spagirl Aug 29 '16 at 13:51
  • @Spagirl The photo I couldn't find was the reader facing the books. Some of the shelves do not have solid backs. Sometimes, the books lean apart and between the heavy volumes the glimpse seems to be squeezed. I think it is the whole imaginary visit that is compressed, not just the skirt and train and George Eliot herself. But your view is certainly part of the whole picture and adds to my understanding of it. – Hugh Aug 29 '16 at 14:15
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    @Spagirl Thank you very much for your help. I really appreciate it. – Li Xiaodong Aug 29 '16 at 15:34
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    @Hugh Thank you very much for your help. I really appreciate it. – Li Xiaodong Aug 29 '16 at 15:35
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    It's probably worth mentioning that G. Eliot was Mary Ann Evans' pseudonym. – user193059 Aug 29 '16 at 16:27

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