Friday, 2 September 2011

Hazlittian

Students sometimes complain about the excessive length of the nineteenth-century novels we ask them to read. And they do seem long, these triple- or quadruple-decker narratives. But here's Hazlitt, prefacing his 1807 abridgement of Abraham Tucker's eighteenth-century masterpiece, The Light of Nature Pursued, with some grumpy complaining about how short books were getting in the nineteenth-century:
A philosophical work in seven large volumes presents no very great attractions to the indolent curiosity of most readers. Even the seven volumes of Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison, are at present viewed with doubtful looks by the eye of taste, and reluctantly engaged in: and our modern novelists, that happily privileged race of authors, whose works "not sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," are exempt from the charge of dulness or ennui, have been obliged to contract the boundless scenes of their imagination within four slender volumes, where the diminutive page vies in vain with the luxuriant margin.
Woh, dude. Right on.

1 comment:

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