I've been doing my PhD for about a year and a half now, and during this time (or at least the time since I've had this blog), I've been trying to save up all the deeply awkward sentences or chapter titles I've come across. I might have enough now for a whole post! The problem is that I'm so desensitized to their flowery, ridiculous language that there are probably a million hysterical things I could have saved up that just didn't register with me. Without further ado, here's my very short list of bad Victorian writing:
-"his house was feloniously and burglarationingly broken into and a silver watch was burglariously stolen."
[I don't know what source this is from, but I found it from @NellDarby on Twitter; she said it was written in 1825]
-"Lord Chiltern rides his horse Bonebreaker"
[A chapter heading in Anthony Trollope's Phineas Finn, which I did a recap of; also, Trollope has pretty much loaded Chekov's horse with a title like that, so you know this chapter will end well.]
-"I send you a Times . . . in order that you may see that I have had my finger in the pie" (348).
[Also from Phineas Finn. Could you think of a less awkward way to tell your father that you've joined Parliament?]
-"Chapter 12: A Winter Night: Old Tricks: Pheasant-Stalking: Matchlock vs Breech-Loader: Conclusion"
[Chapter heading in Richard Jefferies's The Amateur Poacher; gee, I wonder what this chapter is going to be about. Could you maybe spell it out a bit more?]
-"She certainly was good-looking — tall and slim, with black eyes like a mountain goat's that looked right inside you" (13).
-"I was enchanted by the extraordinary suppleness of her figure, the special tilt she gave to her head, the golden tint of her lightly-tanned neck and shoulders, her long auburn hair, and, above all, her well-shaped nose . . . my head was completely turned by her well-shaped nose" (64).
[Also from A Hero of Our Time]
-The women are “at least as good as the gardens, the architecture, and the male men” (16).
[As opposed to the female men? From William Morris's News from Nowhere]
-"And so, in that derelict museum, upon the thick soft carpeting of dust, to Weena's huge delight, I solemnly performed a kind of composite dance, whistling The Land of the Leal as cheerfully as I could. In part it was a modest cancan, in part a step dance, in part a skirt-dance (so far as my tail-coat permitted), and in part original. For I am naturally inventive, as you know."
[H.G. Wells's The Time Machine]
-"Oh, for one Thought-Flower now, from the dream-garden of the happy Past!" (267).
[Wilkie Collins's Basil. That whole Victorian 'flowery' language thing is a little too on-the-nose here, Collins]
-“Another man, whom I had not seen, sprang suddenly on me, like a bullet from a catapult” (22)
[Anthony Hope's Rupert of Hentzau. Or . . . a bullet from a gun? Not sure that bullet from a catapult would actually go very fast or do much damage]
-"She was as easy as an old shoe–a shoe that too many feet had worn. Her elasticity was the result of tension in too many different directions."
[Edith Wharton's "The Other Two". This quotation is about a woman who has had three husbands. Yes. It's about her lady bits.]
Wow, this is a pathetically short little list. Considering I have over 300 typed pages of notes, I find it slightly worrying how much stuff I have deemed "probably too normal" to go on this list. I've got Stockholm Syndrome, outrageous things seem reasonable to me, get out, get out, save yourselves–