On the Eighteenth Century…
Right now, I’m reading Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. How can I describe this sweeping 18th century Gothic novel? It is gorgeous and inspiring, but it also reminds me of the demands of writing now. Readers wants sharp sentences with verbs that propel them through a story. No time for cocktails, you know, or long descriptions of nature such as this one by St. Aubert:
‘I remember that in my youth this gloom used to call forth to my fancy a thousand fairy visions, and romantic images; and, I own, I am not yet wholly insensible of that high enthusiasm, which wakes the poet’s dream: I can linger, with solemn steps under the deep shades, send forward a transforming eye into the distant obscurity, and listen with thrilling delight to the mystic murmuring of the woods’ (Radcliffe 15).
As a lover of 18th century literature, I soaked this writing in for years of a thesis and just plain reading for pleasure, and its style has impacted me. I find sentences that are too long, cumbersome, and prissy in my work. I cut and edit constantly. Thank goodness I can still escape to the time where this writing was considered the ultimate in what is lovely and enlightening. I enjoy what I write, but I am still learning to write it for the reader who uses Twitter, Facebook, and iphones.