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It's from Bleak-House. Chapter Down in Lincolnshire ( LXVI)

Some of her old friends, principally to be found among the peachy-cheeked charmers with the skeleton throats, did once occasionally say, as they toyed in a ghastly manner with large fans—like charmers reduced to flirting with grim death, after losing all their other beaux—did once occasionally say, when the world assembled together, that they wondered the ashes of the Dedlocks, entombed in the mausoleum, never rose against the profanation of her company.

any idea what is trying to say especially in the following two clauses

  1. as they toyed in a ghastly manner with large fans—like charmers reduced to flirting with grim death

  2. when the world assembled together, that they wondered the ashes of the Dedlocks never rose against the profanation of her company

  • Have you tried to diagram the sentence? – Jasper Mar 19 at 0:31
  • @jasper what it means if you can interpret - "like charmers reduced to flirting with grim death, after losing all their other beaux" – user91565 Mar 19 at 0:33
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    Pretty sure you mean Charles Dickens, not Darwin? – Lorel C. Mar 19 at 4:03
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To answer the second question:

“Wondered” here is used in an old-fashioned way. Today you’d say “wondered how”. Or maybe “marveled at the fact that”. Lady Dedlock’s old friends (who maybe weren’t such great friends of hers) find it hard to believe (metaphorically, as this is clearly an exaggeration) that the other Dedlock family members’ ashes that reside in the same mausoleum where Lady Dedlock’s body lies, aren’t offended at Lady Dedlock’s presence there to the point where they would “rise against” (protest) her presence. Profanation means desecration, the act of disrespecting something sacred. In other words, these so-called friends of Lady Dedlock thought it was obscene for her body to rest in the same place as her (more respectable, in their opinion) family members.

  • you are a brilliant guy. – user91565 Mar 19 at 14:43
  • would you recommend some grammar books or other books that would help me to nail down sentences like that? – user91565 Mar 19 at 14:46
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    Read novels, not textbooks. The issues for you aren't grammar, they are (1) vocabulary ("profanation" "entombed " you can understand analytically, assuming you know "profane" and "tomb", but you'll just have to look up words like "beaux" and "mausoleum", and (2) allusiveness. You have chosen an author whose style is notably flowery and intellectual. Consider switching to writers dating from the early to mid-20th century, giants like Hemingway and Roth, but also notably spare scribblers like James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler (avoid Faulkner, Joyce, and the other modernists). – Malvolio Mar 19 at 19:55
  • "The major did not marry her in the spring, or any other time. Luz never got an answer to the letter to Chicago about it. A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park." — Ernest Hemingway – Malvolio Mar 19 at 20:00
  • “They threw me off the hay truck about noon. I had swung on the night before, down at the border. They saw a foot sticking out and threw me off. I tried some comical stuff, but all I got was a dead pan, so that gag was out. They gave me a cigarette, though, and I hiked down the road to find something to eat.” — James M. Cain – Malvolio Mar 19 at 20:00
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"like charmers reduced to flirting with grim death, after losing all their other beaux"

Beaux is the plural of beau, which means, roughly, boyfriend — although in modern usage is almost always pronounced and spelled "boo".

Charmers means "charming people".

So these people are charming, but since all their boyfriends have died (of old age), they have no one left to flirt with but Death Himself.

  • It is possible that their suitors gave up on the charmers while the suitors were still alive. Either way, it is implied that the "charmers" have grown old. – Jasper Mar 19 at 0:40
  • you guys are genius; could just explain what he meant by the last clause?"hey wondered the ashes of the Dedlocks never rose against the profanation of her company" – user91565 Mar 19 at 0:43

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