Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Spoil 1.71

Writers of the mind-and-millinery school are remarkably unanimous in their choice of diction. In their novels, there is usually a lady or a gentleman who is more or less of a upas tree: the lover has a manly breast; minds are redolent of various things; hearts are hollow; events are utilized; friends are consigned to the tomb; infancy is an engaging period; the sun is a luminary that goes to his western couch, or gathers the rain-drops into his refulgent bosom; life is a melancholy boon [...] There is a striking resemblance, too, in the character of their moral comments, such, for instance, as that "Vice can too often borrow the language of virtue;" that "Merit and nobility of nature must exist, to be accpeted, for clamour and pretension cannot impose upon those too well read in human nature to be easily deceived;" and that, "In oder to forgive, we must have been injured." There is, doubtless, a class of reader to whom these remarks appear peculiarly pointed and pungent. The colloquial style of these novels is often marked by much ingenious inversion, and a careful avoidance of such cheap phraseology as can be heard every day. Angry young gentlemen exclaim "'Tis ever thus, methinks." [...]
We are getting used to these things now, just as we are used to eclipses of the moon, which no longer set us howling and beating tin kettles.

George Eliot, "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists". Westminster Review 66 (Oct 1856): 442-61.


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