The OF Blog: The times, they have a'changed

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The times, they have a'changed

I received my copy (1893 edition) of Lord Lytton's 1832 novel, The Last Days of Pompeii today. Just started reading the first page when I began to wonder if the passage of years might have proved deleterious to reader receptions of Lytton's prose. Here is the first page:

"Ho, Diomed, well met! Do you sup with Glaucus to-night? " said a young man of small stature, who wor his tunic in those loose and effeminate folds which proved him to be a gentleman and a coxcomb.

"Alas, no! dear Clodius; he has not invited me," replied Diomed, a man of portly frame and of middle age. "By Pollux, a scurvy trick! for they say his suppers are the best in Pompeii."

"Pretty well - though there is never enough of wine for me. It is not the old Greek blood that flows in his veins, for he pretends that wine makes him dull the next morning."

"There may be another reason for that thrift," said Diomed, raising his brows. "With all his conceit and extravagance he is not so rich, I fancy, as he affects to be, and perhaps loves to save his amphoræ better than his wit."

"An additional reason for supping with him while the sesterces last. Next year, Diomed, we must find another Glaucus."

"He is fond of the dice, too, I hear."

"He is fond of every pleasure; and while he likes the pleasure of giving suppers, we are all fond of him."

"Ha, ha, Clodius, that is well said! Have you ever seen my wine-cellars, by-the-by?"

Would you read on to page two and beyond, based on what was posted from page one?


Tia Nevitt said...

You get used to it after a while. Try reading Le Morte d'Arthur. Now that takes some getting used to!

I'll be looking forward to your review!

Matt Keeley said...

Not his most memorable opening sentence, is it?

No one reads the man's books, they just know ONE SENTENCE the guy wrote...

(For those who don't know, it goes like this:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness" )

Unknown said...

Short answer - no.

That really is bad. Not, as Tia Nevitt says, as difficult to slog through as Le Mort D'Arthur, but I think a whole heap more wooden.

krobinett said...

As a former lit major, I am used to reading things like Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Mallory. Those might be work at times, but are highly enjoyable and rewarding work.

This...just seems like work.

No, I probably would not want to go on to page two.


Jen said...

Most likely not. But I do have an excuse, I'm a foreigner :P (Though I don't think I could do it even if the book was in Romanian...)

Mihai A. said...

Well, I have the same excuse, I am Romanian so I find it difficult to read. And in case I would pick it up it would require a lot of time.

Terry Weyna said...

I think I'd give it up and try Pompeii by Richard Harris instead -- which really is quite good. My husband read it aloud to me on a vacation a few years ago, which was a delightful experience. (People should read aloud to one another more. Totally different experience from listening to an audiobook, and lots more fun.)

Reuben said...

Not a chance! Wooden is the perfect word for it. It's like a fifteen year old tried writing with Shakespeare's desicated old hand as a pen holder.

Nowadays that writing seems amateurish. Or worse, like its something out of a thriller.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I'd read on. I had no issue with it.

Heloise said...

It's not like Bulwer-Lytton is exactly famous for his prose style - infamous, if anything. There is a reason the Bulwer-Lytton Award was named after him, of all people.
(Which by the way, means I might read on for laughs a couple more pages, but probably would not get beyond page 20.)

Gabriele Campbell said...

I read through that book pretty fast and the prose didn't bother me much. While I could not get into Harris' version; his Romans are too American for my taste.

Lsrry said...

I probably will get around to reading it in full in a week or two; the prose doesn't bother me (even if I prefer the 18th century English authors more than the late Georgian/early Victorian era). Story description intrigues me. Just thought many might be put off by that stilted (to today's audiences) dialogue, even if I'm not.

Michelle said...

Also going to play the foreigner-card here. My brain shut off after the first two paragraphs.

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